“Despite the global economic downturn, the awarding of these ten new exploration permits indicates that Australia remains a highly attractive and secure destination for offshore petroleum exploration.

“This additional investment in Australia’s offshore petroleum exploration sector not only offers exciting potential for petroleum discovery but will ultimately help to further develop our petroleum resources and underpin our security of energy supply.

“As with all petroleum exploration in Australia, the holders of these new permits will be required to comply with the best practice environmental standards set by Australian law. Exploration activities in these new permits will be subject to stringent environmental approvals before offshore petroleum exploration activities commence,” he said.

The ten new permits are:

— Four permits in the Roebuck basin, Western Australia to Carnarvon Petroleum Ltd (WA-435-P) and Finder Exploration Pty Ltd (WA-436-P, WA-437-P and WA-438-P);

— Two permits in the Carnarvon basin, Western Australia to Woodside Energy Ltd (WA-434-P) and Chevron Australia Pty Ltd and Shell Development (Australia) Proprietary Limited (WA-439-P);

— Two permits in the Bonaparte basin, Western Australia to Goldsborough Energy Pty Ltd (WA-440-P and WA-441-P); and

— Two permits in the Bonaparte basin, Northern Territory to Finder Exploration Pty Ltd (NTP/79) and Murphy Australia Oil Pty Ltd and Diamond Resources Australia Pty Ltd (NTP/80).

A total of 17 bids were received for the 18 areas available in the second closing round of the 2008 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release.

The new permits will be jointly administered by the Australian Government and the respective state and territory governments.