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). These areas are defined as ‘Commonwealth waters’.

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGSA) provides the regulatory framework for all offshore petroleum exploration and production, and greenhouse gas (GHG) injection and storage activities in Commonwealth waters. The OPGGSA is supported by regulations covering matters such as safety, diving, petroleum resource management and environmental performance.

Environmental approvals for offshore petroleum and GHG activities in Commonwealth waters are governed by the provisions of the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009 (Environment Regulations). This framework ensures optimal environmental protection whilst allowing development of an internationally competitive and sustainable industry.

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) has responsibility for regulation of environmental management under the OPGGSA for petroleum activities.

Until recently, offshore environmental approvals were also subject to the requirements of the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). On 24 October 2013, the Minister for Industry, the Minister for the Environment and the CEO of NOPSEMA agreed to undertake a Strategic Assessment under Part 10 of the EPBC Act of NOPSEMA’s offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas environmental management authorisation process (as described in a key document called the ‘Program’). The Strategic Assessment was undertaken to allow the Minister for the Environment to endorse the Program under the EPBC Act, and approve classes of actions undertaken in accordance with the Program.

On 28 February 2014, the Minister for the Environment endorsed the Program, and approved all petroleum and GHG activities taken in Commonwealth waters and in accordance with the endorsed Program (with some exceptions, including activities undertaken in the Great Barrier Reef or Antarctica, and injection and/or permanent storage of greenhouse gas). For further information about the Strategic Assessment process and outcomes, see Streamlining Offshore Petroleum Environmental Approvals

Financial assurance

The Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Amendment (Compliance Measures No. 2) Act 2013 received Royal Assent on 28 May 2013. It amended the OPGGSA to strengthen the offshore petroleum regulatory regime, through measures to continue the implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the June 2010 Report of the Montara Commission of Inquiry. It included a clarified and broadened financial assurance requirement, which replaced the former requirement in the OPGGSA to maintain insurance. This took effect on 29 November 2013.

See: Financial assurance for more information.

Review of the Environment Regulations 2009

In conjunction with implementation of the Australian Government’s response to the Montara incident, and following the establishment of NOPSEMA on 1 January 2012 as the national regulator for environmental management of petroleum activities in Commonwealth waters, the department has undertaken a comprehensive review of the Environment Regulations established under the OPGGSA.

Amendments to the Environment Regulations that were made on 17 February 2014 implement the outcomes of the review. The amendments commence on 28 February 2014.

See the Environment Regulations 2009 website for more information.

Australian Government Response – Oil or gas production in the Great Australian Bight

On 23 August 2017, the Australian Government Response to the Environment and Communications References Committee report on oil or gas production in the Great Australian Bight was presented to the Senate.

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More information

For more information about Australia’s offshore petroleum environmental management contact:

Manager, Environment Safety and Security
Resources Division
Department of Industry
GPO Box 9839

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