Supporting offshore gas exploration with geoscience
Natural gas has been extracted in waters off Victoria's coast for many decades and is a vital part of the state's energy supply network. Future supply is dependent on new gas discoveries.
To stimulate commercial exploration for natural gas resources, the Victorian Government released five new offshore acreage areas in the Otway Basin for tender in May 2018. The areas are in state-controlled waters (3 nautical miles off the coast) between Port Campbell and the South Australian border. View the acreage area maps.
A strong response was received from industry prior to the close of tender applications in February 2019. Earth Resources Regulation is now evaluating proposals on a merit basis. Successful applicants will be required to submit specific work programs for approval before any significant work takes place. There are strict environmental controls in place governing offshore exploration.
Find out more about the tender process.
Offshore exploration process
The acreage release is the beginning of the exploration process. Exploration typically takes several years and there is no guarantee that it will result in a producing gas field.
The first stage of commercial exploration includes desktop analysis, modelling and mapping. If seismic surveying is required in future years, a separate approval process would be undertaken including consultation with any potentially impacted industries. If a commercially viable reservoir of gas is discovered in the future, and a company wishes to develop it, a separate and rigorous regulatory process would commence.
Unlike the moratorium on onshore conventional gas, and the permanent ban on onshore unconventional gas, there is no moratorium or ban on offshore exploration or production of natural gas.
If new gas fields are found to be viable, safe to extract and appropriate to the local context, there are positive implications for jobs and economic development in the region.
The coastal areas of the southwest are a major asset and strict environmental controls are in place.
Marine parks are excluded from the new offshore acreage areas and from gas exploration and development.
Any authorised marine seismic surveys must include an environmental protection plan that identifies any risks to flora and fauna and planned mitigations. No seismic survey work would be permitted during whale migrations.
Extended reach drilling from onshore to access offshore gas has been successfully used for many years in south west Victoria and substantially reduces visual impact and the infrastructure footprint.
The Geological Survey of Victoria recently completed the data acquisition phase of an airborne gravity survey of approximately 16,000 square kilometres of the Otway Basin. The survey includes both offshore and onshore components. The data will be available in the middle of 2019.
Learn more about the airborne gravity survey.
Page last updated: 06 Dec 2019