Australia's Quiet Success Story: The Riches of Bass Strait
- Robin Beckwith (Staff Writer JPT/JPT Online)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- August 2011
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 42 - 45
- 2011. Copyright is held partially by SPE. Contact SPE for permission to use material from this document.
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Major liquefied natural gas (LNG) developments tend to grab Australian energy headlines, with Shell’s Prelude floating LNG, Chevron’s Gorgon and Wheatstone, Woodside’s Pluto, Santos’ Gladstone, ConocoPhilips’ Darwin, and Inpex’s Ichthys projects prominent among them. However, to be a net exporter of natural gas—currently the world’s fourth largest (after Qatar, Malaysia, and Indonesia) on course to achieve status as the second largest possibly by 2020—Australia must first meet the needs of its own population. With a vast area of 7.75 million sq km, whose cities tend to hug the nation’s 25,760 km coastline, the country faces continual economic challenge to be efficient in delivering both oil and gas to its 21.8 million people. Playing a critical role in such delivery are the oil and gas riches first identified in 1965 in the hostile waters of Bass Strait.
Throughout the 42 years following first oil and gas production, Bass Strait has served Australia’s economy as the source of almost two-thirds of its oil and approximately 30% of its gas. The rock underlying its relatively shallow but notoriously rough waters continues to yield resources, with several projects—the largest being the Esso-BHP Billiton joint venture’s Kipper Tuna Turrum Project and Origin Energy’s BassGas Project—extending natural gas and liquid hydrocarbon supplies to Australia’s southeastern states of Victoria, Tasmania, and New South Wales for several decades, well beyond the strait’s originally projected 35-year life span.
The AUD 4.4 billion Kipper Tuna Turrum Project in the offshore Gippsland Basin is currently under development, with pipelines, subsea equipment, and jackets installed throughout this year, and final infrastructure installation, tie-in activities, and start-up due in 2012–2013. Operational since mid-2006, the BassGas Project, at an estimated cost of AUD 750 million, centers on the Yolla field in the Bass Basin, in waters administered by Tasmania.
The Flow of History
In 1798–1799, surgeon and explorer George Bass traveled through and delineated the strait subsequently named after him. Two hundred and thirteen years later, Australia’s Bass Strait reached the 46th anniversary of another discovery: natural gas from its first well, the Barracouta I, drilled by the Glomar III, which withstood the brunt of the strait’s legendary hostile waters to find the resources. Since 1969, the channel of water—which lies between the state of Victoria, to the north on the mainland, and the island state of Tasmania to the south, and between the Indian Ocean to the west and the Tasman Sea to the east—has yielded more than 4 billion bbl of crude oil and more than 7 Tcf of natural gas.
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