Petroleum exploitation includes production of liquefied natural gas (LNG), domestic gas and petroleum liquids (eg crude oil). Petroleum operations consist of geophysical surveys (seismic, gravity, geochemical), the drilling of wells, the extraction of petroleum, the laying of pipelines and other associated infrastructure. Each of these activities has the potential to significantly impact the environment, and oil spills are a further significant risk.

Petroleum exploration and exploitation of petroleum on WA land and in the waters off the WA coast are regulated under several State and Commonwealth laws. The laws are all drafted in similar ways, and the way that the environment is required to be considered and protected under the laws is also largely the same. This fact sheet describes where petroleum can be explored for and extracted, what laws apply where, what approvals are needed to explore for and exploit petroleum, and how these approvals deal with environmental issues.

Geothermal and greenhouse gas storage laws are incorporated into WA’s petroleum laws, and are regulated in largely the same way. However, as they are developing industries, they are usually subservient to any petroleum titles in the same area, and may also have their own particular additional approvals.

Petroleum activities are constrained in some marine reserves and conservation reserves – for information on this see Fact Sheet: Marine reserves, and Fact Sheet: Conservation reserves. Petroleum activities which may have a significant impact on the environment are likely to be dealt with under the environmental impact assessment process. For the EIA process on WA land and in coastal waters (out to three nautical miles), see Fact Sheet: Environmental impact assessment in Western Australia. Most petroleum developments in Commonwealth waters will be dealt with under the Cth EIA process – see Fact Sheet: Commonwealth environmental impact assessment.