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Advent Energy's application for a two-year extension to its permit to drill for gas off the coast of Newcastle and Central Coast was made under a federal program aimed at providing temporary flexibility for oil and gas exploration companies during the pandemic.
The company has applied to the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator [NOPTA] to extend its Petroleum Exploration Permit 11. The permit covers 4500 square kilometres of ocean from Port Stephens to Manly.
The application to extend the permit for two years was made under the federal government's "Work-Bid Exploration Permits" program, which was aimed at providing flexibility during the pandemic.
A government fact sheet said in April last year that an extension of permit title conditions would be allowed for "up to 12 months" for COVID-19 pandemic related applications, "unless exceptional circumstances can be demonstrated by the applicant".
A further fact sheet was released in January, saying "temporary flexibility measures for offshore exploration" concluded on January 31.
However, it added that companies would still be able to seek an extension "supported by appropriate and valid reasoning".
Advent Energy managing director David Breeze said the company lodged its application on January 30.
Mr Breeze said a two-year extension was "entirely legitimate" in the circumstances.
It was, in a sense, a type of "JobKeeper program" for the oil and gas sector.
Mr Breeze said in a recent announcement to the sharemarket - through BPH Energy - that Advent had raised $9 million for "the drilling of wells" at the "Baleen Prospect", which covers "about 6000 acres". Advent plans to drill a well about 2200 metres deep in an area "22 kilometres off Munmorah".
The share price of BPH Energy - which has a 22 per cent interest in Advent Energy - rose from 13 cents to 22 cents on Wednesday. By Friday, it was trading at 18 cents a share. The federal government on Tuesday reiterated its support for gas.
A community campaign is fighting to stop gas drilling off the coast. Shortland MP Pat Conroy said extending the permit makes "no sense from an economic, environmental or energy perspective". Federal Resources Minister Keith Pitt will have the final say on the permit extension.
Mr Pitt told the Newcastle Herald last week that he would prefer to make a decision soon on the permit, while highlighting that "any rig is unlikely to be visible from the coast".
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