WORK Programs on two exploration permits offshore Western Australia in the Petrel sub-basin have been extended by six months each, the company says.

MEO Australia said the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Authority (NOPTA) had approved variations to the work programs over WA 454 P and WA 488 P, made following company requests.

The extension over WA 454 P gives MEO until 8 December 2015 to complete geotechnical studies and 600 square kilometres of 3D pre-stack depth migration reprocessing.

Interpretation of that reprocessed data and further geotechnical studies must be completed by 9 December 2016, while the planned Breakwater 1 exploration well must be drilled by 8 December 2017.

MEO managing director Peter Stickland said the extension would further de-risk the planned well, in which Origin Energy holds an operating 50 per cent stake and MEO the remainder.

The extension over WA 488 P will give MEO and any potential farm-in partners extra time to carry out further seismic processing over the block, which contains the Beehive prospect.

“The Beehive prospect is one of the largest hydrocarbon structures in Australia and this work program variation is an important step to provide sufficient opportunity for MEO and its potential farminees to consider the potential for a 3D seismic survey to de-risk the Beehive prospect,” Mr Stickland said.

“If MEO and its prospective farminees determine that a 3D seismic survey is warranted, MEO intents to further apply to NOPTA to vary the WA 488 P work program to allow sufficient time to acquire, process and interpret the 3D seismic survey prior to drilling the Beehive 1 exploration well,” the company said.

“If this variation were to be accepted, MEO would expect to drill Beehive 1 prior to November 2017,” the company said.

As the situation stands at present, a first well must be drilled on WA 488 P by 21 November 2016 and a second by 21 November 2019, following seismic surveys and geological and geophysical studies.

MEO holds 100% of the WA 488 P permit area.