Bidding now open to participate in the 2023 Offshore Greenhouse Gas Storage Acreage Release

By Elizabeth Harvey and James Plumb / 31 August 2023

The Australian Government has released new areas for exploration for offshore greenhouse gas storage to help Australia lower emissions and meet net-zero commitments.

In this article, Partner James Plumb, Special Counsel Elizabeth Harvey and Solicitor Sophie Maitland from HopgoodGanim’s Resources and Energy team discuss the 2023 Offshore Greenhouse Gas Storage Acreage Release (2023 GHG Acreage Release).

On 29 August 2023, the Department of Industry and Science (Department) released 10 areas to explore for carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites in Commonwealth waters off Western Australia, Victoria and Tasmania. The released areas fall within seven basins: Bonaparte, Browse, Northern Carnarvon, Perth, Otway, Bass and Gippsland, and already host a variety of offshore exploration and production activities. The areas were selected based on their geology and storage capability and tailored following stakeholder consultation to reduce impacts on other marine users and the marine ecosystem. Maps and shapefiles of the released areas may be accessed via the Department’s web page.

Participating in the 2023 GHG Acreage Release

Companies seeking opportunities to reduce emissions should consider participating in the 2023 GHG Acreage Release. 

Work-bid Greenhouse Gas Assessment Permits (Permit) are administered under the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act) and authorise titleholders to explore in the permit area for potential CCS storage formations and injection sites. 

Permit applications must be submitted to the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) by 4pm on 28 November 2023.  

Amendments to the OPGGS Act affecting Permits came into force on 2 March 2022, including changes to the form of the application, NOPTA’s decision-making criteria, and certain notice requirements. Proponents should be mindful of these recent updates when submitting applications to participate in the 2023 GHG Acreage Release.

Relevance of the Sea Dumping Act 

The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Act 1981 (the Sea Dumping Act) regulates the disposal of carbon dioxide (CO2) via offshore CCS.

Proponents that wish to participate in the 2023 GHG Acreage Release and sequester CO2 in the sub-seabed via CCS in Australian waters will also require a permit under the Sea Dumping Act. To grant a sea dumping permit for this purpose, the Minister for the Environment must be satisfied that the material meets the criteria set out in the 1996 Protocol to the Convention on the Prevention of Marine Pollution by Dumping of Wastes and Other Matter, 1972 (London Protocol). This includes the composition of a CO2 stream and any contaminates.

A bill amending the Sea Dumping Act is currently progressing through Parliament, which, if enacted, would enable companies to export their CO2 waste overseas for disposal and facilitate cross-border storage projects. The Environment Protection (Sea Dumping) Amendment (Using New Technologies to Fight Climate Change) Bill 2021 (Cth) (Bill) was introduced to give effect to Australia’s international obligations arising out of the 2009 and 2013 amendments to the London Protocol. 

Until the Bill is enacted, companies seeking to reduce emissions via offshore CCS will be limited to undertaking these activities in Australian waters.

For more information on the 2023 GHG Acreage Release, including how your company may participate, please reach out to HopgoodGanim’s Resources and Energy team

Key Contacts
Elizabeth Harvey
Special Counsel
Elizabeth is a Special Counsel in our Resources and Energy practice.
James Plumb
James is a Partner in our Resources, Energy and Projects practice.

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