Australia has announced the grant of 13 new offshore petroleum exploration permits as part of round one of the 2012 Offshore Petroleum Exploration Acreage Release, Resources and Energy Minister Gary Gray said in a statement on Monday. The award of these permits will see an estimated 180 million AU dollars (172.2 million US dollars) in new investment in waters off Western Australia and Tasmania over the next three years. According to him, the high demand for Australia\'s offshore petroleum acreage is pleasing, with 23 bids received for 15 new release areas from a mix of international and Australian companies. This new exploration commitment has the potential to add to Australia\'s oil and gas reserves. \"The release and subsequent award of exploration acreage is critical to ensure the growth of the Australian petroleum sector remains strong,\" Gray said. \"This ongoing investment will ensure the continuation of Australia\'s impressive reputation as a safe, reliable exporter of LNG.\"