The South Australian Government has announced the opening of eight petroleum exploration licences (PELs) under a new bidding round, amid increasing demand for gas in the state.

Five of the eight licenses are located in the Cooper Basin in the State’s Far North and the remaining three are located in the Otway Basin in the Limestone Coast region.

The five acreage blocks (CO2019-A to E) covers 13,582.3km², comprising relinquishments from PELs and petroleum retention licences (PRLs). Additionally, the government is offering three new PELs in the Otway Basin for work programme bidding (Blocks OT2019-A to C), following the acreage relinquishments.

The three licenses, which cover 6950.8km2, offer a diversity of traditionally early and late Cretaceous oil and gas plays.

Opening of new PELs comes at a time of high gas demand in South-East Australia

South Australia Minister for Energy and Mining Dan van Holst Pellekaan said that the bids are the first major release of multiple Cooper Basin blocks since 2013.

Pellekaan added: “Companies operating in the Cooper Basin have sustained world-class exploration success rates since the frontier was opened to new explorers in 1998, confirming the basin’s reputation as an excellent exploration investment destination.

“These exploration success rates have also helped to drive a significant increase in South Australian oil production through exciting new play trends such as the Cooper Basin’s Western Flank.

“Winning Cooper and Otway basin bidders will be selected on the basis of the total five-year work programme bid.”

The Cooper Basin is said to contain more than 150 gas fields and 90 oil fields that are currently in production. The gas fields contain approximately 700 producing gas wells while the oil fields contain more than 360 producing oil wells.

The bid is planned to be closed on 29 November 2019.

Subject to the requisite approval processes under the Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 2000, the successful bidder will acquire seismic and drill conventional oil and gas wells.