Upstream Petroleum

The upstream petroleum sector includes all petroleum exploration and extraction activities—such as exploration, development and processing—which take place prior to the shipment of stabilised crude oil, condensate or sales gas (including liquefied natural gas (LNG)).

Upstream petroleum activities occur both onshore and offshore.

Responsibility for Australia’s offshore areas beyond three nautical miles from the territorial sea baseline rests with the Australian Government.

Responsibility for onshore petroleum operations and as far as three nautical miles seaward of the baseline (referred to as ‘coastal waters’), is the responsibility of the state and Northern Territory governments.

How is the department involved?

The department provides the Australian Government with high-quality upstream offshore petroleum-related policy advice, including supporting the Minister for Resources and Energy in his role as the Commonwealth member of the Joint Authorities for the offshore areas of each State and the Northern Territory and as the Joint Authority for the offshore areas of the External Territories and of Eastern Greater Sunrise.

The Australian Government administers the resource management framework governing petroleum exploration and development in Australia's offshore waters. The framework is being reviewed during 2014-15 to ensure it continues to support the timely, efficient and optimal long-term commercial recovery of offshore petroleum resources.

Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG)

Australia is a major exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), with considerable potential for further development based on its abundant resources of natural gas. The department plays a pivotal role in the development of Australia's LNG industry primarily through its role in regulating offshore petroleum development.

International Offshore Petroleum Regulators and Operators summit

In 2011, the Australian Government hosted the International Offshore Petroleum Regulators and Operators Summit in Perth, Australia to share the collective lessons learnt and applied post the August 2009 Montara and April 2010 Gulf of Mexico incidents. The summit targeted global senior-level policy makers, regulators, industry representatives and leading academics with the aim to develop a common understanding and consistent approach to the regulation of the global offshore petroleum industry.

Joint Petroleum Development Area and Greater Sunrise

Australia and Timor-Leste work together to facilitate development of resources in the Joint Petroleum Development Area and the Greater Sunrise fields in the Timor Sea. The department provides a representative for the Australian Government on the Timor Sea Treaty Joint Commission and the International Unitisation Agreement Sunrise Commission.

National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority

NOPSEMA has regulatory responsibility for occupational health and safety, structural integrity of facilities, wells and well-related equipment, environmental management, and day-to-day operations of offshore petroleum facilities in Commonwealth waters, and in coastal waters where regulatory functions and powers have been conferred under State or Northern Territory legislation.

Offshore Petroleum Development

Offshore petroleum development is undertaken by industry in accordance with laws and policies which are administered by the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator and the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority, and developed in partnership with the department’s Offshore Resources Branch. The department's role in relation to the development of offshore oil and gas resources is to increase investment in petroleum development in offshore areas under Commonwealth jurisdiction.

Montara Commission of Inquiry

The Montara oil spill was an oil and gas leak and subsequent slick that took place in the Montara oil field in the Timor Sea, off the northern coast of Western Australia in 2009.

Offshore Petroleum Environment

The Australian Government has jurisdiction for the regulation of petroleum and greenhouse gas activities for Australia’s offshore areas beyond coastal waters (those areas more than three nautical miles from the Territorial sea baseline and within the Commonwealth Petroleum Jurisdictional Boundary). These areas are defined as Commonwealth waters.

Offshore petroleum exploration in Australia

The Australian Government administers policy which encourages petroleum exploration in Australia's offshore areas. The department strives to provide a stable, transparent and internationally competitive offshore exploration investment regime.

Offshore petroleum regulatory regime

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.

Offshore petroleum safety

Offshore petroleum safety describes the manner in which offshore petroleum activities are conducted that that does not jeopardise the safety of people or the environment. In Australia, all offshore petroleum activity in Commonwealth waters is regulated by the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Safety) Regulations 2009.

How is NOPTA involved?

On 1 January 2012, the newly established departmental branch, the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator (NOPTA), acquired responsibility for titles administration and data management functions in relation to offshore petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters.

How is NOPSEMA involved?

On 1 January 2012, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) acquired regulatory responsibility for occupational health and safety, structural integrity, environmental management and day-to-day operations for the offshore petroleum industry. NOPSEMA is an independent statutory authority within the Resources and Energy portfolio.

More information

For more information about upstream petroleum in Australia see the pages above, the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority website, or the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator website.

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