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BP wins right to explore in Australia

SYDNEY, Jan 17, 2011  – Australia on Monday gave BP permission to explore for oil and gas off its south coast, saying the company had agreed to integrate lessons learned from the Gulf of Mexico spill in its operations.

The troubled energy giant was among a group of companies awarded seven new permits to explore for oil and gas off South and Western Australia.

Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said BP had agreed to "fully integrate lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon incident into its systems and processes", referring to the April 2010 blowout at BP\’s Macondo well.

The accident left 11 workers dead and spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

"I am satisfied that we have put in place the appropriate safeguards and note BP\’s commitment to work with government and regulators to ensure the highest possible safety standards as they carry out this work," Ferguson said.

Australia is offering new leases as it attempts to meet its growing energy demands and Ferguson said increasing exploration was "essential to finding Australia\’s next offshore petroleum province".

"Australia has a Aus$16 billion trade deficit in crude oil, refined products and liquefied petroleum gas which is expected to rise, possibly as high as Aus$30 billion by 2015," he said.

"Our energy security will be greatly enhanced by opening up new geological frontiers and reducing our dependence on imports."

Ferguson said that BP Exploration Alpha Ltd. had won four permits for exploration off South Australia after an "extensive assessment" by regulators.

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The British energy company plans to conduct 3D seismic surveying of about 11,400 square kilometres (4,400 square miles) within the first two years, followed by the drilling of four exploration wells in either 2013 or 2014.

BP said it will explore an area totalling 24,000 square kilometres in the unexplored Ceduna Sub Basin for oil and gas reserves, with the right to develop any commercially viable discoveries.

"Our experience tells us that the geology has a high potential for containing hydrocarbons," said Phil Home, managing director of BP\’s Australian upstream oil and gas business, in a statement.

BP said the proposed exploration would be carried out over six years and would be subject to detailed environmental assessments.

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