Exploration permits for the Great Australian Bight have been awarded to Santos, Chevron, and Murphy Australia Oil.
South Australian Energy Minister Tom Koutsantonis said the exploration work could be worth almost $600 million.
“Not only is the Cooper Basin attracting attention but the Bight basin in Commonwealth waters off the South Australian coast is also being acknowledged as a target for exploration,” he said.
“The delta that is off the Great Australian Bight is one of the most-prospective unexplored basins anywhere in the world. It has the potential for vast reserves of oil and gas.”
Permits have been granted to joint venturers Murphy Australia and Santos Offshore Pty Ltd and to Chevron Australia New Ventures Pty Ltd for two exploration areas.
Mr Koutsantonis said there had been advances in exploration techniques.
“Previous drilling in the region in the early 1990s has encouraged explorers to return to the Bight basin to seek out the potential for large oil and gas accumulations,” he said.
The permits extend from waters 150 metres deep to those of up to 3,700 metres in the eastern basin.
BP Exploration also has permits to explore in the central part of the Bight basin and energy company Statoil, which has Norwegian government involvement, signed an agreement with BP for a 30 per cent equity share in four offshore exploration licences.
Santos executive Bill Ovenden said his company was pleased to be able to explore in the Ceduna sub-basin, about 200 kilometres off the coast.
“While there’s been very little exploration in this region, we would rate the Ceduna (sub-basin) as one of the last true unexplored deltas in the world,” he said.
The SA Opposition welcomed the latest exploration move.
Energy spokesman Martin Hamilton-Smith called for a co-ordinated effort from government and business to support resources potential in the state.
“The positive story emerging in the energy resource sector in the Great Australian Bight and the state’s north-west offers a positive opportunity for the South Australian economy,” he said.
SA Greens leader Mark Parnell said the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico highlighted the misguided risk the Government was taking with the Great Australian Bight.
“When the Minister thinks of the Gulf of Mexico he thinks of billions of dollars of fossil fuel revenue,” he said.
“When the general public think of the Gulf of Mexico, they think of dead sea birds.
“We don’t want in the Great Australian Bight to see a repeat of what happened in the Gulf of Mexico.”