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Australia's offshore oil may take off

April 22, 2008 at 11:48 AM

SYDNEY, April 22 (UPI) -- Australia's recent undersea land acquisition has opened to door to oil and gas drilling.

The federal government forecast a "potential bonanza" of oil and gas riches following a decision by the United Nations to grant Australia an extra 2.5 million square kilometers in undersea land, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson announced Australia's jurisdiction over the Continental Shelf was expanded beyond the existing 200 nautical mile limit.

The oil and gas reserves in the new areas have yet to be fully explored, but the government is optimistic.

"A larger continental shelf means a larger canvas upon which we can paint our resource and energy future. We really know very little about the perceptivity of these areas, however, and increasing that knowledge will encourage explorers," said Richard Ellis, West Australian director of the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association.

Although Australia will soon control the oil and gas under the new territory, it will have no control over the waters and will not be able to police shipping, fishing or whaling above the expanded territory.

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