Australia asked companies on Wednesday to nominate offshore acreage they want to explore for places to bury carbon dioxide, part of a government drive to promote carbon capture and storage (CCS) to help cut emissions.
"The coalition government is keen to accelerate the development of (CCS) projects and offshore greenhouse gas storage offers a perfect investment opportunity," Resources Minister Keith Pitt said.
The last time Australia released offshore acreage for carbon capture and storage was in 2014. Wednesday's announcement came a day after the government called for bids for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Companies can nominate areas in Australian federal waters, which start three nautical miles offshore, where they want to explore for storage locations, with nominations due in July and the offshore acreage open for bidding in December.
Australia is already home to the world's biggest commercial-scale CCS project at the Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, where Chevron Corp is injecting carbon dioxide (CO2) under Barrow Island off Western Australia.
The project has yet to reach its full capacity of storing up to 4 million tonnes a year of CO2, however it did contribute to a 5% drop in Australia's carbon emissions in 2020.
"Like any pioneering endeavor, the carbon capture sequestration system has presented some challenges," a Chevron spokesperson said, adding that the company is focused on ensuring it runs safely and reliably over its 40-plus year life.
The call for CCS nominations came the day after the government sought bids on acreage for oil and gas exploration, despite the International Energy Agency's warning last month that to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 there should be no new fossil fuel investments.
"The decision to open up new oil and gas exploration, at a time when energy experts, investors, and our strategic allies are all moving away from fossil fuels, goes against all scientific and economic reason," Climate Council acting chief executive Martin Rice said.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by David Clarke)