1. Home
  2. Who we are
  3. Exploring


bp Australia’s exploration focus today centres on the Carnarvon basin, offshore Western Australia. This prolific gas basin is home to some of the world’s major LNG developments, including the North West Shelf (NWS) joint venture (JV) in which bp has participated since its inception in the 1970s

The first priority of our exploration team in Perth is to work closely with the NWS JV operator (Woodside) and the partners to identify and drill for additional gas resources to supply the LNG processing facilities. Our second priority is to explore for large scale gas resources outside the NWS JV permits but within tie-back distance.

 When the existing NWS JV fields come off plateau, there will be capacity in the processing facilities for such resources. For this reason, bp has accessed two exploration permits 50km to the north of the NWS JV acreage; these are WA-525-P (BP 100 per cent and operator), and WA-409-P (BP 80 per cent and operator).


Ironbark: acreage WA-359-P

As part of a joint venture between bp (42.5%), Cue (21.5%), Beach (21%) and NZOG (15%), bp will be drilling an exploratory well in the Carnarvon Basin. This activity will take place in Commonwealth waters and will be regulated by the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act and the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulation 2012. In accordance with the legislation, an environment plan was submitted for public comment to the Commonwealth regulator National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA).


bp, as operator, is pleased to work with its joint venture partners on this single well campaign that it hopes will find more natural gas to help boost the declining reserves of the North West Shelf project.


Drilling activities are planned to commence in October 2020.   


For specific Ironbark enquiries, please email ironbarkinfo@bp.com


Regulatory framework

Prior to any petroleum-related activities in Commonwealth waters commencing, an environment plan must be accepted by NOPSEMA.


An environment plan of the exploratory drilling was submitted to NOPSEMA in December 2019 – this was accepted in July 2020. 


An environment plan for the small scale geo-technical and geo-physical survey was submitted to NOPSEMA in March 2019 and accepted in June 2019. 


Exploration drilling consultation

We are excited to drill a single exploration well within WA‐359‐P – this meets the work program obligations under the title. As part of the consultation process, we publicly invited interested parties to comment on our environment plan [PDF 8.3MB].  You can also read an overview of our proposed activity in the Carnarvon Basin.

Ironbark location

Planned activities in the Carnarvon Basin

As part of the joint operating agreement covering exploration permit WA-359-P, BP is the titleholder nominated to undertake eligible voluntary actions on behalf of all titleholders and is also the operator. The Ironbark exploration drilling program is planned in permit WA-359-P, located in Commonwealth waters approximately 170 km offshore from Karratha.


Indicative coordinates and water depths for the Ironbark-1 exploration well are:

Planned well Longitude (E) Latitude (S) Approximate water depth

116° 04' 35.80

19° 09' 34.01"

~300 m

The Ironbark exploration drilling program comprises the drilling, evaluation and plugging and abandonment of one exploration well. The well will be drilled by the Ocean Apex drilling rig.  This will be supported by three mobile positioned vessels including one supply vessel and two anchor handling vessels.


Drilling activities are expected to take approximately 70 to 90 days, depending on weather and any operational delays. Drilling and support activities will typically be conducted on a 24-hour basis.



Safety is the foundation of everything bp does, every day. The company’s goals are clear: no accidents, no harm to people and no damage to the environment.


bp uses multi-layered barriers to prevent conditions from arising that could allow a hazard to become an undesirable event. bp has prepared a source control contingency plan comprising of three discrete plans: a relief well plan, a capping and containment plan and an emergency remotely operated vehicle blowout preventer activation plan. bp is prepared to coordinate an effective and efficient response should a well incident occur.


Completed activities in the Carnarvon Basin

We have completed a small-scale geo-technical and geo-physical survey as an initial activity to support the investigation of the Ironbark exploration prospect, a potential gas/condensate field in block WA-359-P.  The operational area is defined as the Ironbark site survey area, a four kilometre by four kilometre area with a 500 metre buffer for vessel manoeuvring.

Purpose of the survey

The small-scale geo-technical and geo-physical survey was a pre-drilling survey and aimed to confirm that a future well location is positioned on flat seabed in an area free of seabed debris and shallow gas pockets. 


Duration of the survey

The activity took place in mid-2019 over four days.


Our joint venture partners

Introducing our partners for this project – Cue, Beach and NZOG.

Community investment

The Ironbark program is pleased to be investing to amplify existing community activities in the key social investment areas of: education, environment and reconciliation. This will see investments made to Native ARC and to the Indigenous Procurement Research Project.


Native ARC


Native ARC provides medical care and rehabilitation services for over 4000 injured, sick and orphaned native wildlife in Western Australia each year.​


Funding provided by the Ironbark project will support a new rehabilitation and education zone, expecting 20,000 visitors each year. Native ARC will educate younger generations on the importance of biodiversity and environmental sustainability to support the conservation of native flora and fauna. ​


Planning is  currently underway for construction.

Indigenous Procurement Research Project


This research project seeks to measure the economic impacts of Indigenous Procurement Policies and provide evidence towards understanding the contribution Indigenous businesses make to the Australian economy.  


​A strong Indigenous business sector will help drive financial independence, wealth creation and opportunities for Indigenous Australians in Western Australia. 

Great Australian Bight

bp took the decision in late 2016 not to progress with its plans to drill in the Great Australian Bight, offshore South Australia. Subsequently, two of the four permits in which bp held title interest have been transferred to another operator, and two have been cancelled.


BP enters Good Standing Agreement over Exploration Permits EPP 37 and EPP38

BP Developments Australia Pty Ltd and the Joint Authority for the Commonwealth/South Australia offshore area have entered into a good standing agreement (GSA) in respect of bp’s unfulfilled minimum work program obligations in Exploration Permits EPP37 and EPP38.


bp will satisfy the GSA through expenditure on activity in Australia consistent with Joint Authority expectations. At least fifty per cent of the funds will be discharged on activity in South Australia.