About us

The National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority (NOPSEMA) is Australia's independent expert regulator for health and safety, environmental management, structural and well integrity for offshore petroleum facilities and activities in Commonwealth waters.


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Vision, purpose and values

Vision

Safe and environmentally responsible Australian offshore petroleum and greenhouse gas storage industries.

Purpose

To independently and professionally regulate offshore safety, integrity and environmental management.

Values 

  • Professionalism – we will be accountable, consistent, reasonable and act in accordance with the law.

  • Ethics – we will demonstrate respect and integrity in all we do.

  • Impartiality – we will make our decisions on the merits of the circumstances.

  • Leadership – we will be proactive, inclusive and decisive in our conduct as a pre-eminent regulator.

Establishing legislation and principal functions

NOPSEMA is an independent statutory authority established under the Offshore Petroleum Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006 (OPGGS Act). NOPSEMA’s principal functions are detailed in section 646 of the OPGGS Act and are as follows:

  • to promote the occupational health and safety (OHS) of persons engaged in offshore petroleum operations or offshore greenhouse gas storage operations

  • to develop and implement effective monitoring and enforcement strategies to ensure compliance under the OPGGS Act and regulations

  • to investigate accidents, occurrences and circumstances relating to health and safety, structural integrity and environmental management

  • to advise on matters relating to health and safety, structural integrity and environmental management

  • to make reports, including recommendations, to the responsible Commonwealth minister and each responsible state and Northern Territory minister

  • to cooperate with other Commonwealth and state or Northern Territory agencies or authorities having functions relating to regulated operations.

  • NOPSEMA meets its legislated functions by undertaking a variety of activities. For more information see NOPSEMA’s regulatory activities page.

Jurisdiction

NOPSEMA regulates all offshore areas in Commonwealth waters, which comprise those areas beyond the first three nautical miles of the territorial sea. This includes the Ashmore and Cartier offshore territories and offshore areas adjacent to all states and the Northern Territory. 

NOPSEMA also regulates all offshore areas in coastal waters where a state or territory has conferred regulatory powers and functions. In jurisdictions where powers to regulate are not conferred, regulatory responsibilities remain with the relevant state or territory. 

In 2013, Victoria conferred its functions for the regulation of health and safety and structural integrity on NOPSEMA.

The Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea is regulated by the National Petroleum Authority (Autoridade Nacional do Petróleo) of Timor-Leste on behalf of the Government of Australia and the Government of Timor-Leste.

 NOPSEMA jurisdiction map

Note: State and Northern Territory coastal waters conform more or less to the Australian continent and associated islands. Commonwealth waters extend seaward from the edge of the three nautical mile limit of designated coastal waters, to the outer extent of the Australian Exclusive Economic Zone at 200 nautical miles.

History

In 1999, the Australian Government commissioned a review into the adequacy of offshore safety regulation in Australia. At the time, the states and Northern Territory carried out day-to-day offshore safety regulation in Commonwealth waters. The review recommended the establishment of a national petroleum safety regulatory authority.

Federal, state and NT ministers accepted the review’s recommendation and in 2005 the Australian Government established the National Offshore Petroleum Safety Authority (NOPSA) to regulate the health and safety of workers on offshore facilities. New laws were also introduced stipulating the duty of the facility operator to manage offshore petroleum safety.

In 2009 an incident occurred at the Montara H1 well in the Timor Sea off the northern coast of Western Australia. The incident led to an oil spill and gas leak that lasted 74 days. In 2010, the Macondo incident in the Gulf of Mexico claimed 11 lives from the crew of the Deepwater Horizon and led to an oil spill that lasted 87 days. Both incidents drew intense media and public scrutiny and sparked moves for further regulatory reform in Australia and internationally with respect to offshore petroleum.

A Commission of Inquiry into the Montara incident subsequently found a series of failures that led to the spill incident. The failures were predominantly attributed to the operator, however, the inquiry also found and strongly recommended “a single, independent body should be created and be made responsible for regulating the health and safety, well integrity and environmental management aspects of offshore petroleum operations.”

In April 2011, the Australian Government extended NOPSA’s remit to include the regulation of well integrity. Shortly thereafter, on 1 January 2012, responsibility for regulating offshore environmental management was added to NOPSA’s existing functions and the organisation was renamed NOPSEMA.

In February 2014, NOPSEMA became the sole Commonwealth environmental management regulator for offshore oil and gas activities when the Commonwealth Minister for the Environment endorsed NOPSEMA’s environmental management authorisation process under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act).

The combination of the regulation of safety, well integrity, and environmental management under a single independent regulator aims to standardise Australia’s offshore petroleum regulation to a quality, best practice model.