The release of new oil and gas reserves for exploration off Victoria’s west coast is not a breach of the state’s onshore gas moratorium, the premier says.
The blocks are up to three nautical miles off the coast in the Otway Basin and it would involve drilling down onshore then drilling horizontally into the seabed.
‘This doesn’t breach the moratorium. It’s not against the spirit of the moratorium. It’s perfectly legal and it’s the subject of a vigorous environmental process,’ Premier Daniel Andrews told reporters on Thursday.
The areas being released are near major existing producing gas fields, established infrastructure and underground gas storage, including the Otway Gas Processing Plant.
Companies have until February to bid on the five blocks.
The Labor government has banned onshore unconventional gas exploration and development, including hydraulic fracturing (fracking) and coal-seam gas, and extended a moratorium on conventional onshore gas exploration until 2020.
Those on the opposite side of politics have blamed the moratorium for a shortage of domestic gas.
Opposition energy and resources spokesman David Southwick said the invitation to drill for gas from onshore is a ‘complete mockery’ of the ban.
‘Daniel Andrews can’t even get a clear position on his energy policy,’ he said.
But Mr Andrews said Victoria was producing 400 petajoules of gas, with only 200 petajoules being consumed locally, because the rest was being exported.
‘The issue today and every day, until (Prime Minister Malcolm) Turnbull steps up and provides the national leadership that is essential, is to reserve Australian gas for Australian households and Australian businesses,’ Mr Andrews said.
‘We need a domestic reserve, that’s the issue in gas.’