The Australian Government recognises the importance of providing quality geoscientific information to assist in exploration of these resources.
On 14 August 2006 the Australian Government announced new program funding of A$134 million for Geoscience Australia as part of the Government's new energy initiative. Of this, A$76.4 million is being used to ensure that the global exploration industry has continued access to further up-to-date pre-competitive data over Australia's vast offshore areas. The funding covers the period 2006‑2011 and is for an expanded program to focus on new frontier offshore areas prioritised in consultation with the industry. An additional A$59 million over five years has been allocated to identify potential onshore energy sources such as petroleum and geothermal energy.
This new funding builds on the A$61 million previously provided by the Government to Geoscience Australia for pre-competitive data acquisition and remastering of existing seismic data for use in acreage release areas. Public access to exploration and production data in Australia includes digital seismic tapes, well reports and core and cuttings samples from wells. These public data sets are available at the cost of transfer, after a relative brief confidentiality period.
Borrowing of data is becoming increasingly more attractive for explorers, with levels sharply rising. The period between July 2007 and June 2008 has produced figures in excess of 200 terabytes of data from the Geoscience Australia archive. This data comprises of seismic and wells data, and workstation ready packages for the 2007 and 2008 Acreage Release areas in Kingdom, Landmark and Geoframe formats.
Australian Government funding has also enabled Geoscience Australia to undertake an integrated program of seismic acquisition, geological sampling and oil-seep detection surveys over remote and untested frontier basins. This petroleum initiative has increased understanding of these areas and provided pre-competitive data and information to reduce geological uncertainties in evaluation of petroleum prospectivity. An outcome of this program has been the uptake of new exploration permits in the frontier areas of the Bremer sub-basin in the western Great Australian Bight and the northern Arafura Basin, offshore northern Australia. Areas where data has been recently acquired will be used to determine future Acreage Release areas for exploration.
Details of the new pre-competitive geological and geophysical data collection work programs are available from the Geoscience Australia website: www.ga.gov.au/oceans/. Data sets are available for the Arafura Basin and the Central North West Shelf of Northern Australia; the Mentelle, Perth, and Bremer basins of Western Australia; and the Faust, Capel and Fairways Basins of the Tasman Sea, including 5,900 kilometres of new 2D seismic data collected with an 8 kilometres cable.
The program of new data acquisition and basin analysis is continuing with renewed and increased funding until 2011. Geoscience Australia plans to obtain extensive new pre-competitive geophysical and geological data for its Offshore Energy Security Program during 2008-09, at a cost of approximately A$17 million.
Geoscience Australia's work program in under-explored offshore areas will focus on the southwest margin, including the Mentelle, Vlaming and north Perth basins, a synthesis of current knowledge available for the southern margin (from the Naturaliste Plateau in the west to Sorell Basin in the east) and the remote eastern frontiers (Capel, Faust, Gower, Moore and Monawai basins in the Tasman Sea).
Two major surveys are planned in the 2008-09 financial year in the Houtman, Abrolhos and Zeewyck sub-basins of the Perth Basin, the Mentelle Basin, the Wallaby Plateau and the Southern Carnavon Basin. The Wallaby Plateau is one of the areas of extended continental shelf now confirmed as part of Australia's marine jurisdiction by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS).
In January-April 2008 an aeromagnetics survey was undertaken in offshore Tasmania as part of a National Geoscience Agreement between Geoscience Australia and Mineral Resources Tasmania. This survey has delivered new geophysical data to assist in structural mapping and the identification of igneous rocks in the frontier basins of Tasmania.
Analysis of the seismic and other data is well advanced to assess the hydrocarbon potential of remote offshore frontier Capel, Faust and Fairway basins. The results of some of these studies were presented at the Eastern Australian Basins Symposium in Sydney in September 2008.