About the project

The Australian offshore petroleum industry has grown rapidly and is set to become the largest exporter of gas globally. As the industry transitions, cost pressures will increase and productivity gains will need to be found. Meanwhile, the expectations of the community have also grown rapidly and this is evident through increasing demands for more information about offshore petroleum activities. 

The environmental approvals process has been identified as one area where industry collaboration can deliver productivity gains as well as improve the oil and gas industry's interactions with its stakeholders. The reference case project aims to reduce the size of Environment Plans (EP) and make it less burdensome for stakeholders to engage with the approvals process. This is a collaborative project that will achieve these aims by establishing a publicly available knowledge base about how the environmental impacts and risks of offshore petroleum activities are managed.

More information on the project can be found in the FAQs section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

Reference cases identify and capture common environment plan content and typical environmental management practices. They establish a knowledge base for the industry to commence development of an environment plan and are available to the public to scrutinise before the commencement of the approvals process. In developing an environment plan, the industry may choose to apply the case in the context of their particular activity.

For the oil and gas industry the primary benefit of reference cases are cost savings realised from the establishment of a knowledge base for good practice environmental management. By capturing common EP content and typical environmental management practices, reference cases should result in a faster development process, more time to focus on key issues, reduced consultation burden on industry and stakeholders, reduced assessment time frames, and better regulatory decisions.

For stakeholders, the reference cases provide awareness of good practices across industry and provide the basis of discussion of environmental performance where they may be affected by a petroleum activity. Having this information available before the commencement of a consultation process should reduce the consultation burden currently experienced. In addition greater awareness of good environmental management practices should improve the confidence stakeholders have in the oil and gas industry.

During this early stage of the project, the first step is for an idea for a reference case to be suggested to NERA. Anyone can register an idea for a reference case by making a suggestion through the portal on this website. Once the idea is registered, and a suitable number of appropriate development partners are identified, development of the case can start. Development partners will scope the case and agree on a review method with NOPSEMA. The agreed review method will match the nature and scale of the individual reference case. For example, a case about sound thresholds for fish may require a broad and comprehensive review but a case about sewage and grey-water discharge would only need NOPSEMA review.

Completed reference cases are available on this website and are voluntarily used in environment plans (EPs). The dedicated web page for each reference case provides suggested text to be inserted into the EP if a titleholder is using the reference case. These web pages also provide a value statement that assists understanding of the intended application of the reference case. Each reference case also has a detailed scoping section to inform readers about where and when the reference can, and cannot, be used.

NERA welcomes any organisation interested in taking part in the project to get involved. We are looking for offers of personnel, information and funding to assist in the development of reference cases, working in partnership. If you have an idea for a reference case or want to be part of the project email contact@nera.org.au.

As the national regulator for offshore petroleum activities, NOPSEMA is uniquely positioned to understand the demands of industry and the people affected by petroleum activities. This project originated from NOPSEMA's observations that a collaborative and transformative solution was required in the environmental approvals process and to ensure offshore petroleum activities are carried out in an environmental responsible manner. Due to the importance of independent regulation and impartial decision making, NOPSEMA initiated this project and has handed it over to NERA to be the custodian of the material. NOPSEMA will retain involvement through participating in the scoping, prioritising and the regulatory review of reference cases to ensure opportunities for continuous improvement are maximised.

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