Offshore Exploration in Australia: Is It a Good Business? A Five Year Look Back
Paul N. Samson
In the 5 years from 1991 to 1995 the exploration business in Australia has undergone significant changes. Most notable are the shift of exploration focus from Carnarvon Basin to the Timor Gap and the increased importance of gas prospectivity in the exploration portfolio. Diminishing acreage supply and increased maturity of existing acreage has meant that more and more subtle plays are being tested every year.
The re-opening in 1991 of the Timor Gap (Zone of Cooperation) area for exploration saw a flurry of oil companies from around the world bidding fiercely for the 15 blocks on offer. The Elang oil and the Undan/Bayu gas condensate discovery have been the notable success stories. The Laminaria oil discovery in adjacent Australian waters was a direct result of the political settlement between Indonesia and Australia and the encouragement of the Elang discovery.
The omnipresent gas strategy driven by domestic gas and Asian energy demand and advances in technology has pushed the oil companies to look for major gas resources in water depths of up to 1000m. While in the late 80's gas prospect could not been given away, today they demand a very high premium. The renewed interest for gas has resulted in significant discoveries in the NWS and the opening of a new offshore gas province in the Otway Basin. Although not deliberate, part of the Timor Gap may also become a major gas province. Limited frontier offshore exploration took place during the period. Results of the drilling in the Duntroon and Browse Basins have provided hope for the more adventurous explorers.
The discoveries made in the last 5 years have again shown that for those who are prepared to take on the challenge, Australia has the potential for considerable reward.
AAPG Search and Discover Article #91019©1996 AAPG Convention and Exhibition 19-22 May 1996, San Diego, California