Australia offers offshore blocks in bid round

Rick Wilkinson
OGJ Correspondent

MELBOURNE, May 24 -- The Australian government reported the opening of a new round of permit applications comprising 31 blocks largely off Western Australia. The announcement was made last week during the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association Conference & Exhibition in Brisbane.

The blocks on offer included a new unexplored region called the Mentelle basin, which lies about 80 km off the wine-growing region of Margaret River in Western Australia’s southwest corner.

Water depths in this new block on offer range 500 m to 4,000 m. The permit concerned is being heralded as one of the best chances for a major offshore petroleum discovery.

The news has come in the wake of preparatory geological and seismic work by Geoscience Australia, which identified the Mentelle basin several years ago.

However, the announcement also has angered conservation groups and local Margaret River area residents, who have expressed fears that an incident along the lines of the current BP PLC oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico could devastate the unique marine life and jeopardize the tourism, fishing, and other regional industries.

The other new permit offers lie in the Carnarvon basin (19 blocks), the Bonaparte basin (5 blocks), the Roebuck basin off Broome (4 blocks), and the Bight basin off South Australia (2 blocks).

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