The federal government has granted offshore petroleum exploration permits to four companies, including Woodside Petroleum and BP, to operate in Western Australia and South Australia.
The federal government has granted offshore petroleum exploration permits to four companies, including Woodside Petroleum and BP, which have committed to invest $682 million over the next three years.
Resources Minister Martin Ferguson announced three permits, awarded to Woodside, Finder No. 4 and Riverina Energy, in Western Australia's Carnarvon Basis, Australia's leading offshore petroleum producing area.
The other four permits were awarded to BP for exploration in South Australia's Ceduna sub-basin.
"Increasing exploration levels in our un-explored and under-explored frontier basins is essential to finding Australia's next offshore petroleum province," Mr Ferguson said.
"Australia has a $16 billion trade deficit in crude oil, refined products and LPG which is expected to rise, possibly as high as $30 billion by 2015.
"Our energy security will be greatly enhanced by opening up new geological frontiers and reducing our dependence on imports."
Exploration permits were last granted in frontier basins in 2000.
Mr Ferguson said additional conditions had been attached to the permits, emphasising the need for oil field best practise by the operator.
"BP's exploration activities, and indeed those of all operators in Australian waters, will be undertaken in accordance with our stringent environmental and safety standards," he said.
"Australia already has one of the world's most effective petroleum regulatory regimes and it will be further strengthened as we progress legislation to put in place a national offshore petroleum regulator by 1 January 2012, at the same time as we continue to implement recommendations from the Montara report.
"The safety of our workers and environment is fundamental and will remain the priority as we progress the responsible development of our natural resources - both on and offshore.
"I am satisfied that we have put in place the appropriate safeguards and note BP's commitment to work with government and regulators to ensure the highest possible safety standards as they carry out this work."