Australian government puts exploration blocks up for bid

The Australian government has proposed a total of 30 blocks for its annual offshore exploration acreage release for 2014. Of these blocks, only four have been proposed for cash-bidding.

The announcement has surprised the industry, which had been bracing itself for a larger proportion ever since the government in 2012 flagged its intention to reintroduce cash bidding in 2014 for blocks that are either mature or that contain known petroleum accumulations.

Each of the four areas is small—ranging 200-600 sq km. Three are in the offshore Carnarvon basin close to producing areas and one in the Browse basin close to the Ichthys gas-condensate field.

The small number and size of the cash-bid blocks on offer suggests the government is not intent on revenue raising and, indeed, is serious about promoting cash bidding as a more efficient auction process in proven areas.

Overall, most of the proposed blocks are in the Carnarvon and Browse basins, 16 and 8, respectively. Another two are in the offshore Bonaparte basin and three more lie further east in the Arafura Sea in the vicinity of the yet-to-be-developed Caldita and Barossa gas fields. One large area is in the Bight basin extending west from the offshore South Australia-Western Australian border.

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