Apply for a petroleum title

Apply for a retention licence or lease

You must report all discoveries of petroleum in an exploration permit area to the Northern Territory Government.

If the discovery is not currently commercially viable you can apply for one of the following:

You must demonstrate the discovered resource is not commercially viable, but is likely to become so within 15 years.

A retention licence or lease is granted for five years and may be renewed if the resource still meets the non-commercial criteria.

When the resource is considered to be commercially viable, you must convert the retention licence or lease to a production licence.

Before you apply

Before you apply for a retention licence or lease, you may need to consider the relevant legislation below.

Retention licence - Petroleum Act 1984

Before applying for a retention licence, you may need to check whether your application will be affected by the Aboriginal Land Rights (Northern Territory) Act 1976 or the Native Title Act 1993.

Read more about Aboriginal land and native title land.

Retention lease - Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1981

When you discover petroleum in your permit area, you may nominate the blocks which contain the petroleum to be declared as a location under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1981.

A location must be declared before you can apply for a retention lease over the area.

You must apply for a retention lease within two years of the location being declared. You can apply for this to be extended for another two years.

How to apply

The process for applying for a retention licence under the Petroleum Act 1984 or a retention lease under the Petroleum (Submerged Lands) Act 1981 is the same.

You must apply in writing and you must provide the following information with your application:

  • details of the petroleum exploration permit history
  • detailed five year work program to develop the resource's commerciality
  • project feasibility reports
  • reports of reviews of exploration data
  • proposed seismic surveys and drill wells
  • other work designed to progress the licence/lease towards commercialisation
  • estimates of expenditure in nominal dollars.


You must pay the fee when you submit your application.

The fee will not be refunded if you withdraw the application or your application is refused.

How to pay

You can use any of the methods below to pay your fee:

  • personal cheques or money orders made payable to the Receiver of Territory Monies
  • Visa or MasterCard
  • EFTPOS and cash payment for applications that are lodged in person
  • electronic funds transfer - call 08 8999 5263 for account details.

Use your company name as the reference and include evidence of the payment with your application.

If you want to pay by credit card, contact the department by emailing

Submit your application

You can submit your completed application by post, email or in person.

Fees must be paid by credit card for emailed applications. There is no need to post the original documents.

By post

Energy Division
Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade
GPO Box 4550
Darwin NT 0801

By email

In person

Energy Division
Department of Industry, Tourism and Trade
Level 4 Paspalis Centrepoint building
48-50 Smith Street (Corner of Knuckey Street and Smith Street Mall)
Darwin NT 0800

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Last updated: 30 October 2020

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