The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) actively assesses and promotes the petroleum and geothermal prospectivity of Western Australia. Oil exploration has been occurring in the State since the early 1900s, with significant exploration and production occurring in the last 40 years. Meanwhile, renewed interest in geothermal energy as a clean, renewable energy source will play an important role in securing Western Australia's domestic energy supply and help to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Petroleum and geothermal acreage releases
To responsibly manage Western Australia’s petroleum and geothermal energy resources, DMIRS periodically releases discrete areas for which applications can be made for exploration permits (section 30 of the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Resources Act 1967 (PGERA)). This involves a competitive work-program bid process.
Discrete areas are selected based on a combination of nominations from proponents and prime areas. Generally, acreage releases are made annually and are formally announced in the Western Australian Government Gazette, with detailed information on each release area published directly on the DMIRS website.
For more information on recent acreage releases, visit Prospectivity and Acreage Releases.
Prime areas refer to areas of the State not subject to a live title that have a high likelihood of resource prospectivity and/or proximity to essential infrastructure. These areas may be set aside for future release through a Declaration of Reservation of blocks. The Minister for Mines and Petroleum has declared a number of prime areas within the State. DMIRS will draw on these reserves when considering future acreage releases.
The public can view current designated prime areas via Tengraph Web.
More information is available in the Acreage release and designated prime areas guidelines.
Nominating blocks for acreage release
Prior to selecting areas for acreage release, DMIRS will formally seek nominations from industry interested in particular areas for exploration. If a nominated area is released there will be a general expectation for the nominee to submit a bid. The approved manner for nominating an area for release is via a dedicated department mailbox: email@example.com
More information on how to nominate can be found in the Nominating blocks for expression of interest guidelines.
Declaration of Reservation of blocks
Pursuant to Section 28 of the PGERA, the Minister may declare a reservation of graticular blocks not subject to a live title. Reserved blocks shall not be the subject of a petroleum or geothermal exploration permit, drilling reservation, retention lease, production licence, special prospecting authority or access authority. A Declaration of Reservation of blocks remains in effect for a set period of time unless otherwise revoked or varied.
How to apply
The approved manner for lodging an application is through the department’s secure online Petroleum and Geothermal Register (PGR) by the closing date and time stipulated in the Western Australian Government Gazette notice inviting applications. Applications will not be accepted by hand delivery or post.
For an application to be considered valid and accepted for assessment, it must be completed in accordance with Section 31 of the PGERA. Applications cannot be amended after lodgement, however, further clarifying information may be sought as part of the assessment process.
More information on application requirements is available in the Application requirements guidelines.
Most publicly available petroleum and geothermal data can be accessed via online systems. These services provide essential reference material for anyone exploring Western Australia for petroleum and geothermal resources. Contact information for the different formats of petroleum data – including digital reports, data packages, paleontological slides, cores and cuttings and microfiche – can be found on the Western Australian Petroleum and Geothermal Information System (WAPIMS).
Users can construct and print a customised geological map and incorporate other petroleum exploration datasets, including petroleum wells and active leases, via GeoVIEW.WA. This is an online GIS-based mapping tool that allows users to view, query and map various geology, resources and related datasets.
In Australia, the government oversees all laws and regulations for petroleum exploration and development. Responsibilities are divided between State and Commonwealth governments. The Petroleum and Geothermal Explorers Guide provides clear guidance on meeting all relevant legislation for resource activity. For up-to-date information on State legislation, visit Legislative framework for petroleum and geothermal energy.
Investment opportunities and economic information is available from the Department of Jobs, Tourism, Science and Innovation.
Petroleum royalties are administered and collected under State and Commonwealth legislation. Land access and petroleum operations must also consider native title, environmental regulations and safety.
DMIRS’ Resource and Environmental Regulation Group produces documents and publications, particularly relating to petroleum operations. The department’s eBookshop contains almost 5,000 geological products including books, maps and data packages. Most of these are available in PDF format free of charge.