China National Offshore Oil Corp., known as CNOOC, and Royal Dutch Shell plc are among companies which have committed to spend at least 180 million Australian dollars (US $173 million) over the next three years searching for new oil and gas deposits in Australia.
Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray said 13 permits, mostly off the coast of Western Australia state, were awarded in the first round of a new release of exploration blocks.
Spending on drilling programs could rise to more than A$550 million, Mr. Gray said in the statement.
CNOOC's Australian unit was awarded permit WA-484-P in the northern Carnarvon Basin, while Australia's Woodside Petroleum Ltd. beat five other bidders to win the WA-483-P permit in the northern Exmouth sub-basin. Perth-based Woodside has committed to drill one exploration well.
Shell clinched three permits, while other winning bidders included Japan's Inpex Corp., France's Total SA and U.S.-based Apache Corp.
Mr. Gray welcomed the "high demand" for Australia's offshore petroleum acreage, with 23 bids received for 15 new release areas.
"This new exploration commitment has the potential to add to our nation's oil and gas reserves and continues to underpin new projects," he said. "This ongoing investment will ensure the continuation of Australia's impressive reputation as a safe, reliable exporter of liquefied natural gas."