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Petroleum exploration licences

Much of the state’s onshore prospective acreage is covered by 48 Petroleum Exploration Licences (PELs – area currently 219,527 sqkm) in the productive Otway and Cooper-Eromanga basins, the frontier Officer, Arrowie, Stansbury and Arckaringa basins, and over basins with coal seam gas and underground (in situ) coal gasification potential such as the Telford Basin (Leigh Creek).

The right to negotiate (RTN), Indigenous land use agreement (ILUA) and legislation-specific processes consistent with the federal Native Title Act 1993 have been effective in South Australia. In the case of RTN and ILUA processes to the end of March 2018, the relevant registered native title claimants, petroleum explorers and the state government have concluded 55 RTN agreements, and 12 companies have signed up to 11 ILUAs with the Yandruwandha Yawarrawarrka and the Wangkangurru Yarluyandi peoples, enabling the subsequent grant of PELs. A successful conclusion to the current negotiations with the Dieri people will see conjunctive petroleum ILUAs covering the whole of the South Australian Cooper Basin.

All South Australian land access agreements cover the full cycle of petroleum activities including exploration, development and production. Legislation-specific, RTN and ILUA processes are being instigated in other parts of the state on a priority basis. Work programs and licence documents for granted licences, including the terms prescribed in native title access agreements, are available on the Petroleum website

For information on current licences and applications, please refer to the Holders of Petroleum and Geothermal Tenements in SA information sheet.

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Petroleum production licences

Onshore, as November 2016 there were 221 petroleum production licences (PPLs) in place over the Cooper and Otway Basins.

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Petroleum retention licences

Four petroleum retention licences (PRLs) were current in the Otway Basin and 219 in the Cooper Basin at the end of March 2018. Operators of PELs within Cooper Basin proven play trends may apply for PRLs to get more time to reduce economic and/or subsurface uncertainties to progress to production. PRLs offer five-year terms including an exploration and appraisal work program and no acreage drop on renewal.

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Associated activities licences for petroleum

(previously associated facilities licences)

A total of 48 associated activities licences (AALs) were current at the end of March 2018. Most AALs were granted to enable either the recording of full-fold seismic to a licence boundary by recording tails of seismic lines outside of the exploration licence, or to construct flowlines or production facilities adjacent to existing PPLs or PRLs.

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Gas storage licences

There are currently nine Gas Storage Exploration Licences (GSELs) current in the Cooper Basin, 12 GSELs and 38 GSELAs in the Officer Basin, 14 GSELs in the Simpson Basin, 4 GSELs in the Pedirka Basin. one located in the vicinity of Leigh Creek  as well as one GSEL and one gas storage retention licence (GSRL) in the Otway Basin. No royalties are levied for gas stored as an incentive for carbon dioxide geosequestration projects.

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Special facilities licences

Nine Special Facilities Licences (SFLs) were current as at November 16. A Special Facilities Licence authorises the licensee to establish and operate facilities for the purposes involving or associated with searching for a regulated substance, processing a regulated substance, producing or generating energy from a source of geothermal energy or other activities that may be relevant or incidental to searching for or processing a regulated substance, producing or storing a regulated substance or product derived from a regulated substance.

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Royalties and production

Petroleum royalty payments to the State in financial year 2017-18 were $85.9m, with estimated total product sales of $1,199m.  This brings the cumulative royalty paid since 1970 to $3.02b (2017/18 dollars) and cumulative sales to an estimated $50.05b (2017/18 dollars). Since 1991 the average royalty paid equals 6.70% of the sales value.

For Production statistics and more see

In 2014/15 crude, condensate and LPG production increased, while sales gas was slightly lower overall due to higher downtime (planned field and maintenance activities), when comparing to the previous financial year.

The State’s oil production trends were declining until 2002 when new technology and a resurgence in drilling activity led to discoveries along new play trends e.g. the Cooper Basin western flank. Beach Energy became the largest net oil producer in the Cooper Basin in 2013.  Gas sales peaked in 1989, were at a plateau for 10 years, and have been declining since 1998, however new plays in unconventional reservoirs such as deep coals, tight sands, lacustrine shales and composite lithology plays  in the Cooper Basin could reverse this trend.

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Petroleum drilling and seismic

The Australian Bureau of Statistics reported that petroleum exploration spending in South Australia totalled $160.3 million in the 12 months to June 2017.

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The South Australian Cooper – Eromanga basins have significant potential for natural gas in unconventional reservoirs, and if proven to be economic, the development of related gas plays could extend production for decades. Prospective plays include: gas in deep coals; gas in stacked low permeability (tight) reservoirs including shale, siltstone, tight sandstones and coal; and shale gas shale.

Explorers have accelerated appraisal of Cooper Basin resource plays. Gas explorers have been encouraged with results from the first 37 vertical and 4 horizontal wells drilled to target natural gas in deep unconventional reservoirs in the South Australian Cooper Basin since 2010. In December 2012, Beach Energy spudded Holdfast, the first dedicated horizontal well to test shale gas deliverability in the State. Fracture stimulation and flow testing programs have also gathered pace.

Santos Ltd

Santos JV drilled and suspended all 42 appraisal and development wells and 2 exploration wells in production licences during 2017.

Beach Energy Ltd

Beach Energy has drilled 4 appraisal and 7 development wells in 2017. Beach has had success in their exploration program with discoveries in their Crawford, Crockery, Largs, Lowry, Mokami and Naiko wells.

Senex Energy Ltd

Senex completed drilling of 2 appraisal and 1 development well 2017. Marauder 1 exploration well was a oil discovery.

Leigh Creek Energy Ltd

Leigh Creek Energy drilled 4 UCG exploration well sin the Telford Basin

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Geophysical and geochemical surveys

Offshore exploration permits for petroleum

Exploration in the state’s offshore basins is ramping up with major international explorers completing large seismic surveys in their EPPs and preparing to drill deep exploration wells from 2016-17.  potential for giant petroleum accumulations in the Bight Basin where recognised exploration targets are similar to those in prolific gas–oil provinces elsewhere in the world. Nine exploration permits for petroleum (EPPs) were current in federal waters adjacent to South Australia at the end October 2015. A large frontier region in the Bight Basin, S15-1, was released by the Federal Government as part of the 2015 Australian offshore bid round in May, work program bids close 21 April 2016.

BP Exploration (Alpha) Ltd was granted EPPs 37 to 40 inclusive in the Bight Basin on 14 January 2011. BP has guaranteed to undertake exploration worth about $605m with the acquisition of 11 400 km2 of 3D seismic completed in May 2012, followed by four exploration wells by June 2017. The combined secondary exploration program includes an additional six deepwater wells and 5 000 km2 of 3D seismic for a total expenditure of $832m, bringing total investment to $1.437b over six years.

Two permits (EPPs 41 and 42) in the Duntroon and Ceduna sub-basins of the Bight Basin were awarded to Bight Petroleum Pty Ltd on 7 July 2011. Bight Petroleum has proposed 768 km2 of 3D seismic and 235 km of 2D seismic in the first operational year, and one exploration well in the third operational year, with total guaranteed expenditure of $67.6 million for the combined Primary Term work program. The combined Secondary Term work program commitments for the two permits include an additional 3 wells, 2 269km2 of 3D seismic and 405km of 2D seismic for a total expenditure of $210 million. Total exploration expenditure for the two permits is approximately $278 million over 6 years.

EPP43 was awarded to Murphy Australia Oil Pty Ltd and Santos Offshore Pty Ltd on 22 October 2013. The joint venture proposed a guaranteed work program of 4,000km 2D seismic survey; 2D processing, interpretation and 3D planning with a 4,600km² 3D seismic acquisition and processing program, totalling $50 million. The secondary work program consists of 3D processing, interpretation, one exploration well and post well studies totalling $53 million.

EPPs 44 and 45 were awarded to Chevron Australia New Ventures Pty Ltd on 22 October 2013. Chevron proposed a guaranteed work program of geological and geophysical studies, 21,000 km² 3D seismic acquisition and four exploration wells, totalling $486 million. The secondary work program consists of geological and geophysical studies, 2000 km² 3D seismic acquisition, geological and geophysical studies and prospect review totalling $10 million.

In October 2016, BP announced that BP has announced it will not proceed with plans for exploration drilling in the Great Australian Bight, offshore South Australia, and instead would focus on other shorter term projects in it’s global portfolio.  BP stressed that the decision was not a result of a change of view of the prospectivity of the region, nor of the ongoing regulatory process run by the independent regulator NOPSEMA.

In October 2016 Karoon Gas Australia Ltd was awarded exploration permit EPP46 covering 17,793 square kilometres of the Ceduna Subā€Basin, in the Great Australian Bight.

Coal seam gas

Coal measures in South Australia are primarily of Permian, Triassic, Jurassic and Tertiary age, and while most known deposits have been evaluated for coal extraction potential, few have been evaluated for coal seam gas potential (CSG). The depth and maturity of the coal deposits and distance to infrastructure and markets has prevented economic exploitation of all except Leigh Creek. Over the last 20 years, coal research in the state has focused on proving up known deposits for mining and power generation, and only limited greenfield coal exploration has taken place.

Interest has been shown by a number of companies to explore for CSG in South Australia over the last five years.. Currently there are twelve PELs and six PEL applications under consideration for exploration rights to evaluate the CSG potential and/or underground coal gasification potential of South Australian coals. Known South Australian coal deposits and relevant PELs and PEL applications are located in Figure 6. The determination of some PELs is delayed pending resolution of native title land access agreements. The three companies exploring for coal seam methane and/or in situ gasification opportunities in South Australia are listed below.

Linc Energy

SAPEX Limited (a Linc Energy subsidiary) was granted PELs 117–119 and 121–124 in the Arckaringa Basin and PEL 120 over the St Vincent and Walloway Basins in September 2006. In October 2008, SAPEX Limited merged with Linc Energy Ltd which now operates the licences. Linc are also the Mining Act licensee for the Wintinna East and Weedina coal deposits. The company has more recently been focusing on an oil shale play in the Stuart Range Formation and  conventional oil plays in the Arckaringa Basin after oil shows were recorded in the Maglia 1 well.

PELs 123 and 124 were renewed by SAPEX Limited for a further 5 year term in October 2015.

Energy Exploration Limited

PELs 126 and 153 were granted to Energy Exploration Pty Ltd in April 2014 over the Lock coal and Mullaquana coal–oil shale deposits (Polda Basin).

ARP TriEnergy Pty Ltd

Granted PEL 650 located over the Leigh Creek coal field in November 2014.

For more information, contact:

Elinor Alexander
Director Geoscience & Exploration Branch
Energy Resources Division

+61 8 8429 2436