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search on for new oil fields

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    Search on for new oil fields

    Jason Koutsoukis

    February 24, 2008


    MASSIVE oil and gas reserves lie undiscovered across Australia's vast sedimentary basins, the country's peak oil exploration body says.

    A new report by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association has concluded that only a quarter of Australia's oil and gas reserves have been explored.

    Without further oil discoveries, Australia faces a crippling trade and energy crisis.

    On current trends Australia's crude oil and condensate production is declining from nearly 100 per cent of Australia's needs in 2000, to just more than 60 per cent today, and, without major new discoveries, an anticipated 32 per cent by 2017.

    That translates into a decline in the petroleum and petroleum products trade balance from a surplus of $0.9 billion in 2000, to a deficit of $13.7 billion today and a projected $28 billion deficit in 2017.

    The report's author, geoscientist Trevor Powell, said he was convinced the oil was out there.

    "At present, just 17 per cent of Australia's offshore sedimentary basins and 26 per cent of potentially prospective onshore basins are covered by petroleum permits," Dr Powell said.

    "There are more than 50 sedimentary basins in Australia, of which 12 are currently producing oil or gas and four have reserves deemed non- commercial."

    Dr Powell said new crude oil discoveries were essential for maintaining the economic benefit of petroleum supply, which reached $22.7 billion in 2006, with governments receiving $8.1 billion in taxes and royalties.

    "Given the maturity of Australia's oil producing areas, only the discovery of a substantial new oil province can arrest the decline in reserves and production," he said.

    Dr Powell said the most likely oil rich areas included the Arafura Sea in northern Australia, the remote eastern frontier regions such as the Faust, Capel and Fairway basins of the Lord Howe Rise and the continental shelf area south of Tasmania, the South Tasman Rise.

    Onshore, they include the lower Paleozoic basins of central Australia such as the Canning, Georgina, Warburton and Darling basins - which have geological similarities to oil-rich basins in North America - and the Gunnedah, Pedirka and Simpson basins.

    Energy Minister Martin Ferguson said that, with Australia looking down the barrel of a $27 billion trade deficit in oil and condensate by 2015, the search was on for another Bass Strait.
 
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