Offshore Petroleum Regulatory Regime

In Australia, offshore petroleum operations beyond designated state and territory coastal waters are governed by the Commonwealth Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGSA) and related Acts and Regulations.

Within this legal framework, Australian Government entities administer the regulatory regime together with state and Northern Territory government involvement through Joint Authority arrangements.

The Joint Authority makes the major decisions under the OPGGSA concerning the granting of petroleum titles, the imposition of title conditions and the cancelling of titles, as well as core decisions about resource management and resource security. There is a Joint Authority for the offshore area of each state, the Northern Territory, the external territories and Eastern Greater Sunrise. The Joint Authorities for the offshore area of each state and the Northern Territory comprise the responsible Commonwealth Minister and the relevant state and Northern Territory Resources Minister. The responsible Commonwealth Minister is the Joint Authority for the offshore areas of the External Territories and Eastern Greater Sunrise.

Two additional Australian Government bodies—the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA) and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA)—also perform regulatory functions under the OPGGSA and related Acts and regulations. NOPTA and NOPSEMA were established on 1 January 2012 through the implementation of important offshore regulatory reform that resulted in changes to regulatory arrangements in the offshore petroleum regime.

The OPGGSA in its current form, incorporating both petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities, entered into force in 2008, having previously undergone a modern re-write and introduced in 2006 as the Offshore Petroleum Act 2006 (OPA) which superseded and repealed the previous offshore petroleum legislation, the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1967 (PSLA).

The offshore legislation, regulations and guidelines provide for the orderly exploration for and production of petroleum and greenhouse gas resources, and sets out a framework of rights, entitlements and responsibilities of government and industry.

The legal framework within which petroleum exploration and production activity takes place in Australia is a result of certain agreements including the Offshore Constitutional Settlement (see Related documents) and the division of responsibilities between the Australian Government and the State/Northern Territory Governments under the Australian Constitution.

Ultimate responsibility for Australia's offshore areas, beyond three nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline, rests with the Australian Government, whereas onshore and as far as three nautical miles seaward of the baseline (referred to as 'coastal waters') petroleum operations are the responsibility of the individual state and territory governments. An explanation of Australia's maritime zones is provided in Australia's Offshore Jurisdiction Explanation of Terminology in relation to Petroleum Exploration and Development (see Related documents).

National Legislative Compliance Framework (NLCF)

The National Legislative Compliance Framework (see Related documents) arose from the government's response to the Report of the Montara Commission of Inquiry. It is intended to assist the development of a consistent best practice approach by regulators of Australia's offshore petroleum industry through its identification of good regulatory practice. The report has general application as a benchmark to assess regulation of offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage activities as well as for use by other regulators.

Related pages

  • Changes to regulatory arrangements in the offshore petroleum regime
    Information about recent amendments and changes made to petroleum regulation and legislation.
  • General Policy Review newsletter
    The General Policy Review is a newsletter produced by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism (RET) to advise interested parties on policy issues and developments related to the offshore minerals and offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage regulatory regime.
  • Offshore legislation, regulations and guidelines
    The offshore legislation, regulations and guidelines provides for the orderly exploration for and production of petroleum and greenhouse gas resources, and sets out a framework of rights, entitlements and responsibilities of government and industry.

Related documents

More information

For more information about offshore petroleum regulation and legislation, contact Jess Brown, Manager of Legislation Review.

Phone: +61 2 6243 7134
Email: Jessica.Brown@industry.gov.au

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