May 23 (UPI) -- The Australian government has signed off on the environment permits to survey what could be its largest untapped oil and gas reserve, a project partner said.
Melbana Energy Ltd., which is a partner in the Beehive prospect alongside French supermajor Total and Australian energy giant Santos, said the Australian environmental regulator signed off on plans to conduct a seismic survey of the Beehive prospect offshore.
Seismic surveys are used to get a better understanding of a field's potential and, according to Melbana, Beehive could be the largest untapped basins in the country.
"Our existing commercial arrangement with Total and Santos provides Melbana with the opportunity to explore this enormous prospect at no further cost to Melbana through to the completion of the first exploration well, which if successful, would be a game changer for our company, the region and its shareholders," CEO Robert Zammit said in a statement.
Melbana's said the Beehive prospect may be on par with the Tengiz basin in the Kazakh waters of the Caspian Sea, one of the largest ultra-deep water fields in the world. Combined with nearby developments, Tengiz produced its 2 billionth barrel of oil more than six years ago.
Santos and Total have the option to take an 80 percent participating interest in a permit that Melbana says may be a "multi-billion barrel" prospect.
Santos noted that the license area in question is either next to or within reach of nearby production infrastructure, so Beehive has the potential to enter commercial operations quickly if an actual discovery is made.