Streamlining Environmental Approvals for Marine Seismic Survey Activities

The NERA Collaboration Seismic Environment Plan (CSEP) Project is seeking to achieve fundamental and long-term improvements to the way that seismic activities are planned with consideration for commercial fishing activities.

In 2018, NERA established an industry consortium to create a common framework for seismic exploration in North West Australia. The CSEP Project seeks to establish:

  • A Commercial Fishing Industry Adjustment Protocol to provide a standardised, evidence-based process to understand monetary adjustment to offset loss of catch, gear damage/loss and displacement of fishing effort in areas where they fish at the same time as a seismic survey conducted under the CSEP.
  • A Spatio Temporal Protocol to provide guidance regarding repetition of seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • A single overarching approvals framework for seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • A consistent assessment of environmental features, potential impacts and management strategies for seismic activities within the CSEP area.
  • Improved understanding of potential cumulative impacts of seismic activities across the CSEP area.

If approved, the common Environment Plan framework will be valid for a period of at least five years and will enable consistent assessment of environmental impacts when applying for and conducting seismic acquisition activities in the CSEP project area. In the 12 months to March 2019, approximately $887 million was spent on offshore exploration in Australia. The Carnarvon Basin, Browse and Bonaparte basins, located offshore in the North West of Australia, are Australia’s most prolific petroleum basins, with more than 60% of Australia’s oil and gas production currently sourced from North West Australia.

In recent years, long assessment timeframes have become common during the approval process. The long assessment period reduces operational flexibility, increases costs for the vessel operators and has created a significant administrative burden for stakeholders. Specific outcomes sought by the project include:

  • Streamline the consultation processes between the industry and stakeholders. Consult more effectively with local communities and build a strong relationship with the fishing sector.
  • Reprofile environmental impacts and risks to enable strategic consideration of what may or may not be acceptable levels of environmental impacts and risks.
  • Make Australia a globally competitive location to invest in seismic activities through transforming the business environment for seismic activities.


The benefits of a successful project could see improved certainty for both fishing and petroleum industries, greatly reduced consultation burden for all stakeholders, and a strategic assessment of impacts across Northern Australia.

Desired project outcomes:

  • Reduce schedule risks through reduced assessment timeframes​
  • Improve regulatory certainty of approval through standardisation​
  • Reduce approval costs across industry by at least a third​
  • Drive down costs through levelling the playing field for geophysics companies

Project Timeframe

Start: October 2018
End: June 2022


Project Funding

Total Project Cost: $852,000

NERA: $426,000

Industry: $426,000