Promise of oil, thousands of jobs as companies hunt in Great Australian Bight
January 18, 2015 10:52PM
Where the oil drilling could happen in the Bight.
OIL explorers are racing to the Great Australian Bight to uncover an enormous untapped resource that promises thousands of South Australian jobs.
News that up to four new seismic survey missions will this year join three already probing the seabed off South Australia is being seen as a sign of unprecedented confidence in the region’s oil and gas potential.
What prospectors believe may be the world’s next major new oilfield would present a huge economic boost to the state, especially Eyre Peninsula, and create thousands of jobs on land and at sea.
A total of six oil companies will spend $1.2 billion on surveys and the drilling of nine wells across 38,785 sq km of seabed this year and next, the enormous investment coming despite a slump in world oil prices to half what they were last year
State Development Energy Resources Department executive director Barry Goldstein said that if research results were favourable, the explorers would spend a further $1.1 billion on another 13 wells and 9269 sq km of 3D seismic surveys in the following three years.
Mr Goldstein said the bight was the largest relatively unexplored area in the world and that resource companies were attracted by the potential for “giant petroleum accumulations”.
“That perception is sufficient, even at today’s low prices, because they won’t be low forever, for explorers to persist,” he said.
“If exploration is a success, it would take no fewer than five years and as many as 10 years to bring a discovery into production because of the need to get a production facility in place.”
SA Chamber of Mines and Energy chief executive Jason Kuchel said the bight was considered to have the potential to be one of the largest offshore oil basins in the world.
He said the value of oil production from a successful oilfield would be worth many tens of billions of dollars.
Multinational oil company BP has expressed its confidence in the region through a $1.437 billion exploration program, starting with $605 million to be spent on its search for oil and gas, much of it in the next two years.
BP, in partnership with Statoil (30 per cent), is the most advanced explorer and will drill four wells from early next year until late 2017.
The Royal Dutch Shell Olympus tension leg platform sets sail from Kiewit Offshore Service
This follows one year of seismic survey work in 2012, which gave it enough confidence to start drilling in its permit areas, about 300km southwest of Ceduna.
Community benefits will start flowing from the BP exploration this year, with tenders to be issued soon for port facilities at Port Adelaide, a heliport, runway, passenger terminal and hangar at Ceduna and an alternative airfield and passenger terminal at Fowlers Bay, west of Ceduna.
A BP spokesman said some jobs would be created in transport and logistics, supplying fuel, food and transport services.
BP has awarded a $138 million aviation contract to Bristow Helicopters to supply a plane to take workers from Adelaide to Ceduna and supply three helicopters to ferry workers to the oil rig, while a $900 million deep sea oil rig is being built in South Korea.
Chevron has two permit areas next to BP and plans to drill four wells at a cost of more than $500 million between 2016 and 2019 and the two companies plan to share airport and port facilities.
The latest oil exploration activity started in October when a Petroleum Geo-Services survey ship began seismic work on behalf of a Santos and Murphy Oil joint-venture, while TGS launched two survey vessels in December.
Further plans by major international service companies Ion and Schlumberger to produce independent seismic surveys to sell to oil companies are not finalised.
Mr Goldstein said drilling in the bight would be a boon for the state and nation in terms of tax receipts, royalties and energy security, but would have to be carried out in a way that protects human health, safety and the environment.
The tuna industry is concerned about possible interference with migration patterns and is monitoring mining developments.
Australian Southern Bluefin Tuna Industry Association chief executive Brian Jeffriess, however, said the industry had no major problem with the exploration because the majority view was that the oil industry was good for the state and generated jobs.
The Wilderness Society SA director Peter Owen said the environmental group was opposed to developing an oil industry in the bight for many reasons, these including concerns about possible affects on the marine park, marine species and the environment.
The Australian Conservation Foundation could be contacted for comment.