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for exploration licences, retention licences, production licences, pipeline
licences, preliminary and speculative survey licences and associated
An application for an exploration licence can be lodged at any time
over any area of the State that is not in a highly prospective region.
Applications for highly prospective regions require the Minister to call
for tenders. The Minister may grant more than one exploration licence or
production licence over the same area, provided the right to explore for
a particular regulated resource for each licence differs. Certain areas are
alienated from exploration operations, such as protected areas under the
National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972 (Department of Primary Industries
and Resources, South Australia).
An applicant must demonstrate technical and financial ability to
comply with the terms and conditions of the lease and the Act. The
applicant must also submit a work program, including an estimate of
exploration expenditure to be incurred in each year of the licence.
Western Australia has followed the South Australian model and adopted
geothermal provisions into current petroleum legislation.
The Petroleum and Geothermal Energy Act 1967 covers all onshore
areas of the State, its islands, and in certain circumstances, areas of
submerged lands internal to the State. Excluded areas include 'subsisting'
permit areas under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1982.
The legislation provides for a full range of energy titles, including
exploration permits, specific prospecting authorities, access authorities,
drilling reservations, retention leases and production licences. Applicants
must submit a development plan for approval, which outlines how the
geothermal resources will be recovered. Further, the right to recover
geothermal energy does not entitle proponents to petroleum discoveries,
and vice versa.
Similar provisions to those of petroleum tenements apply to
geothermal titles with respect to the procedures for applying, cancelling
and renewing titles, the rights and obligations of title holders, transfers
or dealings in titles and transitions from exploration permits to retention
or production leases.
The Mineral Resources Development Act 1995 governs geothermal energy
exploration in Tasmania. It has adopted a system similar to New South
Wales, in that geothermal substances are included within the definition
The Act provides for a number of different licences, including
exploration licences, retention licences, prospecting licences and mining
It is proposed that geothermal energy in the Northern Territory will be
regulated by the Geothermal Energy Act 2009. The Act provides for an
exploration permit, retention licence and production lease. The Act has
not yet come into effect, although this is imminent.
This Act permits the authority holder to enter and occupy the area
and to construct a road, and do other work, in order to gain access to
the area by the shortest practicable route. Consent is required from
owners of certain types of land before entry. An owner or occupier is
also entitled to compensation from the geothermal authority holder for
loss or damage in relation to the person's interest in the land.
GEOTHERMAL ENERGY BILL 2009 (QLD)
The draft Geothermal Energy Bill 2009 is the next step in the
development of a viable geothermal industry in Queensland. The Bill
deals with both exploration and production rights, and is designed to
replace the interim Geothermal Exploration Act 2004. The remainder of
this paper will consider some key elements of the Bill.
TYPES OF GEOTHERMAL ACTIVITIES
The Bill covers both exploration and production activities. 'Geothermal
exploration' is proposed to be defined as:
3 exploring for and quantifying geothermal resources and reserves; and
3 carrying out investigations and other activities associated with
exploring for, or quantifying, geothermal resources and reserves.
'Geothermal production' is proposed to be defined as the "recovery
of geothermal energy from beneath the surface of the land in which it is
It is intended that the Bill will only regulate 'large scale' exploration
and production activities. Persons who carry out large scale production
activities will be required to obtain a geothermal production lease and
to satisfy the requirements of other relevant legislation, including the
Water Act 2000 and the Environmental Protection Act 1994. The
classification of an activity as 'large scale' is proposed to be determined
by the temperature and flow rate of fluid or gases extracted in the
geothermal production. The actual threshold levels, however, have not
yet been determined.
The Bill does not govern 'medium scale' or 'small scale' activities,
3 geothermal exploration activities being carried out with the
intention of producing 'medium scale' or 'small scale' use of
geothermal energy; and
3 'medium scale' or 'small scale' geothermal energy production.
For example, medium scale production may include the use of
geothermal heat for chemical production or food processing. Small scale
production may include the installation or use of geothermal heat
A medium or small scale user will not be required to obtain a
Geothermal Exploration Permit or a Geothermal Production Lease, and
will therefore not be required to pay a royalty for production. Activities
by small or medium scale users will be governed by other existing
legislation, including the Integrated Planning Act 1997, Water Act 2000
and the Environmental Protection Act 1994.
The types of authorities that may be obtained under the Bill are a
Geothermal Exploration Permit for exploration, Geothermal Production
Lease for production and a Geothermal Data Acquisition Authority.
GEOTHERMAL EXPLORATION PERMIT
Under the current provisions of the Geothermal Exploration Act 2004, a
Geothermal Exploration Permit can only be obtained by submitting a
tender for land that has been specifically released for competitive
tender. The Bill proposes to abolish this requirement by introducing an
individual application process, allowing explorers to apply for land that
would otherwise have been unavailable.
The Bill has made a number of proposed changes to the Geothermal
Exploration Act 2004 with respect to exploration activities, the most
3 increasing the maximum exploration permit area from 600km2 to
3 increasing the maximum exploration permit term from 8 years to 15
3 introducing a requirement to relinquish 33.33% of the permit area
every five years; and
3 introducing the ability to declare a potential commercial area in
order to secure a discovery in the event that it cannot be brought to
The Bill also contains transitional provisions for holders of current
permits under the Act.
GEOTHERMAL PRODUCTION LEASE
Persons may apply for a Geothermal Production Lease either over land
within the area of a current Geothermal Exploration Permit, or over land
that was previously subject to a Geothermal Exploration Permit, with
priority given to the former.
The area of a Geothermal Production Lease can not be more than 50
blocks (or approximately 3750km2) and may be granted for a minimum
period of five years, and maximum period of 30 years. Applicants must
submit a development plan outlining the activities proposed, financial
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