A Comparative Study of Licensing and Concession Systems
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Edited by Tina Hunter
Chapter 3: Licensing and concession system for developing Australia’s conventional petroleum resources
The history of Australia’s offshore petroleum resource development parallels that of other offshore provinces, particularly that of the North Sea. Whereas the history of petroleum in the US is dominated by the recovery of petroleum from onshore fields, and then the gradual movement into calm shallow waters offshore, offshore petroleum development in Australia centred on the offshore zone. Similar to the North Sea, petroleum was discovered in the mid 1960s in the torrid offshore area of Bass Strait. In 1960 Standard Oil’s geologist Lewis Weeks recommended that BHP (now BHP Billiton) explore Bass Strait, predicting that it would be an oil rich province. His predictions proved correct, with the discovery of oil in Marlin field (part of the Gippsland Basin) in Bass Strait by BHP and its farm-in partner, Esso, in 1966. The nearby Halibut and Kingfisher oil fields were discovered by 1968. All three fields came online by the early 1970s, and Bass Strait became the dominant petroleum-producing province in Australia. From the oil boom of the late 1960s, through to the early 1990s, Bass Strait has been Australia’s dominant oil-producing area. This was further enhanced by the discovery and development of oil fields in the offshore Gippsland Basin. By 1985 the Gippsland Basin reached its peak, producing an average of 450,000 bbl/d. Since this peak, basin production has steadily declined, with production levels hovering at or below 80,000 bbl/d since 2006.
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