Australian Government opens up more offshore oil exploration areas

A large section of the Bass Strait will be opened to oil exploration this year.

Federal Resources Minister Matt Canavan released 21 new offshore exploration areas at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association conference in Perth this week.

The government claims that the new acreage release provides the industry with the ability to undertake long-term planning and investment.

The area in the Bass Strait is divided into two to form the Cape Wickham sub-basin and the Durroon sub-basin. The former lies 33 kilometres from the Northern coastline while Durroon comes within 11 kilometres of the coastline.

Bids to explore the areas close on October 19.

Wilderness Society spokesman Vica Bayley said the plan posed a genuine risk to the state’s coastline.

He said there were leakage risks associated with drilling, and if rigs were established, gas burners could be visible in some areas from the shoreline.

“The Bass Strait is incredibly slow-flushing – the tides wash backwards and forwards – which means any leaks or spills would just wash around,” Mr Bayley said. “And the waters are notoriously rough.”

A Geoscience Australia report of the exploration area states that the Bass Strait is protected from the nine-metre waves that swell towards the West Coast with waves measuring between four to six metres.

The waterway is home to two Commonwealth Marine Reserves, in which mining and exploration is permitted, and seven different types of fisheries.