Oil and gas exploration too close to Abrolhos Islands: Greens

The Federal Government’s 2013 release of potential gas and oil exploration sites has drawn criticism from greens groups who claim the area is too close to the Abrolhos Islands.

This year has seen the government open up 31 sites off the Western Australian, Northern Territory and Victorian coasts for exploration.

The Greens' marine issues spokesperson, Senator Rachel Siewert, is concerned about a site off the coast of Geraldton which she says is too close to the Abrolhos Islands, ABC reported.

"The Abrolhos Islands are a unique marine environment, they're important for their conservation value and their ecological value but also of course we know that they play a vital role in our fishing industry.

"Now this release of the acreage overlaps the special purpose area in the Abrolhos and also abuts, directly, the marine national park for the area."

Federal Resources Minister, Gary Gray, said there is a long process before any projects can be developed which includes environmental approvals.

"We have exploration leases and then when a company has found something, if they find something, it then goes into a retention lease while they consider how they might extract the oil or gas and at that point that process then draws in environmental regulation.

"That draws in the process for ensuring that any petroleum or hydrocarbons activity is properly regulated and managed and then an approval may be given for production."

With 12 multi-billion LNG projects either under construction on Australia’s coastline or in the planning stages, Australia is on-track to overtake Qatar as the world’s biggest exporter of LNG by the end of the decade.

Chevron’s Gorgon Project is one of Australia’s single biggest developments with an estimated resource base of more than 40 trillion cubic feet of gas and a nominal development life of around 60 years.

But the first LNG from the project has now been pushed back from the original date of 2014 to 2105 as development costs rise to $52bn.

Escalating costs in the resource sector has been a hot topic of late as many are concerned Australia is becoming increasingly uncompetitive amid rising costs.

Last year, Minerals Council of Australia chief, Mitchell Hooke warned that Australia’s cash costs were 30 per cent more than the global average, warning this could impact on future projects.

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