Individuals or companies must apply for the appropriate licence before undertaking any exploration, preliminary survey or production of petroleum or geothermal energy.

Exploration Licence (PEL, GEL or GSEL)

A petroleum, geothermal or gas storage exploration licence (PEL, GEL or GSEL) authorises the licensee to carry out in the licence area exploratory operations for regulated resources, and operations to establish the nature and extent of a discovery and the feasibility of production.

An exploration licence may be granted for one or more separate areas however, the total licence area cannot exceed:

  • 10,000 km2 in the case of a petroleum exploration licence;
  • 3,000 km2 in the case of a geothermal exploration licence;
  • 2,500 km2 in the case of a gas storage exploration licence.

Separate applications and licences are required for the three categories of exploration licence - petroleum, geothermal and gas storage.  Certain licences are compatible with other licences under the Act (see below).

The activities authorised by an exploration licence are outlined in the licence instrument.  For example, a petroleum exploration licence authorises the licensee to explore for a regulated resource, except a source of geothermal energy or a natural reservoir for gas storage.  In this example, a separate gas storage exploration licence is required if the holder of a petroleum licence intends to explore for natural reservoir/s for gas storage.

However, there are some instances where a historical petroleum licence or application may include gas storage rights.  A map showing areas currently available for gas storage can be downloaded here.

Retention Licence (PRL, GRL or GSRL)

A petroleum, geothermal or gas storage retention licence (PRL, GRL or GSRL) provides an exploration licensee with security of title over currently non-commercial discoveries for a reasonable period of time until they become commercial.

The area of a petroleum retention licence must not exceed either of the following:

  • twice the area under which (according to a reasonable estimate at the time when the licence was granted or last renewed) the discovery is likely to extend; and
  • 100 km2 .

The area of a geothermal retention or gas storage retention licence cannot exceed 1,000 km2.

Production Licence (PPL, GPL or GSL)

When a discovery is made that warrants production in an area of an exploration or retention licence, the licensee is entitled to a petroleum production, geothermal production or gas storage licence (PPL, GPL or GSL) respectively over the discovery area.

The area of a petroleum production licence must not exceed either of the following:

  • twice the area under which (according to a reasonable estimate at the time of granting the licence) the discovery is more likely than not to extend; and
  • 100 km2.

The area of a geothermal production licence or a gas storage licence cannot exceed 1,000 km2.

Pipeline Licence (PL)

The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000 provides for the granting of pipeline licences (PLs) for the purpose of constructing and operating a transmission pipeline for carrying a regulated substance (as defined in the Act). A PL can be held for a term of 21 years with rights of renewal.

Preliminary and Speculative Survey Licences (PSL and SSL)

A preliminary survey licence (PSL) authorises the licensee to carry out a survey, environmental evaluation or other form of assessment preparatory to the carrying out of regulated activities on land, for example for the purpose of surveying the proposed route of an onshore transmission pipeline prior to applying for a PL.

A speculative survey licence (SSL) authorises the licensee to carry out exploratory operations of the kind specified in the licence and is limited to 10,000 km2 in size.

Associated Activities Licence (AAL)

An associated activities licence (AAL) authorises the licensee to conduct associated activities or operate associated facilities on land outside the area of the primary licence. An associated activity or facility is anything that is reasonably necessary for, or incidental to, carrying on regulated activities in the area of, or the vicinity of, the primary licence area.

Special Facilities Licence (SFL)

A special facilities licence (SFL) authorises the licensee to establish and operate facilities for the purposes involving or associated with:

  1. searching for any regulated substance, or
  2. processing any regulated substance, or
  3. producing or generating energy from a source of geothermal energy, or
  4. other activities that may be relevant or incidental to searching for any regulated substance or processing, producing or storing any regulated substance or a product derived from a regulated substance.

A special facilities licence cannot be granted over an area that exceeds 5 km2.

Compatible Licences

Certain classes of licences are compatible licences in accordance with the Act.  Petroleum, geothermal and gas storage licences are compatible licences such that the same area may by subject to two or more different licences.

The holder of an existing compatible licence or application will be consulted prior to the grant of a new compatible licence.

The Department, through appropriate regulatory processes such as the Statement of Environmental Objectives (SEO) process and Activity Notifications, will consider operational and technical requirements for the safe, efficient and reliable conduct of operations under compatible licences.

For more information, contact: