An energy company has lodged an application to drill for gas off the Hunter coast.
Advent Energy has applied to the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator to drill in the Baleen prospect zone - about 30km southeast of Newcastle - in Petroleum Exploration Permit 11 area, which stretches from Port Stephens to Sydney.
One of the firm's parent companies, BPH Energy, made the announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange on Tuesday morning.
The Newcastle Herald reported last week that long-standing plans for 3D seismic testing had been abandoned in favour of drilling after a 2D survey in the area in early 2018 found gas deposits under the ocean floor.
In the announcement on Tuesday, BPH Energy said PEP11 was "supremely located to potentially supply gas into the east coast gas market" and was "one of the most significant untested gas plays in Australia".
It said "various onshore gas exploration roadblocks" would not affect offshore drilling and the company was aiming to conduct a drill test this year.
"The gas supply crisis on the east coast of Australia has created a significant market opportunity to raise the funding to drill with the objective of developing the PEP11 project and we are now engaging with investors to fund this drilling," the company said.
The current PEP11 permit expires in March, 2021, but the application to the Commonwealth administrator has also asked for a two-year extension.
Ongoing talk of seismic testing off Newcastle's coast drew vocal opposition from parts of the community in recent years, with action group Save Our Coast formed to fight the potential action based on fears about the effects on the marine environment and wildlife.
Save Our Coast told the Herald last week the group was pleased that plans for further seismic testing had been shelved, but there was concern over the prospect of drilling.
Advent Energy managing director David Breeze said at the time previous drilling off the east coast in 2010 lasted about 25 to 30 days.
On Tuesday, Save Our Coast founder Natasha Deen said the application to extend the PEP11 permit would be met with "fierce opposition from the community".
"In this climate emergency it is incredulous that our federal decision makers will even consider approving this flawed plan ... off our beautiful coast, along the most heavily populated area of Australia, within an area of rich biodiversity, in the whale migration path, and threatening our thriving tourism and fishing industries," Dr Deen said.
"We will continue to rise up to oppose this offshore gas field every step of the way, to save our climate our living ocean and save our coast that we are all connected to.
"The confirmation in writing that seismic testing has been shelved is a huge win for our marine animals who will be spared the harm that is seismic blasting, and a win for the campaign and the community.
"It is testament to our campaign and the strength of community spirit as we united to Stop Seismic Testing and Save Our Coast ."
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