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Exploration and production

Hydrocarbon exploration (or oil and gas exploration) is the search by petroleum geologists and geophysicists for hydrocarbon deposits beneath the Earth's surface.

Visible surface features such as oil seeps, natural gas seeps, pockmarks (underwater craters caused by escaping gas) provide basic evidence of hydrocarbon generation. However, most exploration depends on highly sophisticated technology to detect and determine the extent of these deposits.

When a prospect has been identified and evaluated and passes the petroleum company’s selection criteria, an exploration well is drilled in an attempt to conclusively determine the presence or absence of oil or gas.

A natural gas producer is generally involved in exploration, drilling, and refinement of natural gas. There are independent producers as well as integrated producers, which are generally larger companies that produce, transport and distribute natural gas.

In Australia, companies wishing to embark in hydrocarbon exploration or production require licenses to do so. State and territory governments are responsible for issuing licenses for exploration and production activities to be conducted onshore and within the first three nautical miles off the state’s coastline.

The Commonwealth is responsible for issuing licenses for exploration and production in Australian waters past three nautical miles.

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