Business-changing potential

JOHN Doran says that, by nature, he is inclined not to over-hype things. But despite all the objectivity, the Roc Oil chief executive officer views this summer’s drilling program in the Perth Basin as vitally important for a significant part of the Australian oil industry.

This is due to the number of small companies involved, he says.

Dr Doran can’t recall any time in the past 20 years when an offshore drilling program involved so many small Australian companies.

“If we have success, it will radically and fundamentally change some of these companies, including Roc,” he says.

Roc is the operator of a potential eight-well program in two prospective and adjacent permits (WA 286P and TP/15) immediately off the Dongara coast, thought to contain a possible 725 million barrels of oil in place.

TP/15 adjoins the onshore permits containing the Hovea oil field and the recent Jingemia oil find.

If the three early wells in these permits – Cliff Head-3, Twin Lions-1 and Mentelle – are successful, Roc will spend $12 million in the Perth Basin in the coming year.

“Along with the UK, the Perth Basin is a most important area to us. We are hoping it will be a cornerstone of our growth,” Dr Doran says.

Australian Worldwide Energy managing director Bruce Phillips views his company’s Perth Basin acreage similarly – including three adjacent permits, with oil finds already in two of these.

“We rate this as a close second to our BassGas interests,” Mr Phillips says.

“It’s an extremely important cornerstone, as we have arguably the biggest net position in the most prospective part of the basin.”

Ted Ellyard, managing director of Hardman Resources and chairman of smaller Perth Basin player Bounty Oil and Gas, ranks the Perth Basin as “number two” in Hardman’s portfolio, after the company’s two major Mauritania oil discoveries.

Hardman, which will be producing from Jingemia come February, is not interested in giving up its 30 per cent in TP/15.

Bounty managing director Tom Fontaine believes his company is in a good position in the basin.

Even if TP/15, which would provide great leverage, does not prove successful, Bounty is keen on the planned onshore Leafcutter, and further acreage coming up next year.

Norwest Energy chief executive officer Ivan Burgess is acutely aware the company’s short-term fortunes are significantly tied to the WA 286P and TP/15 outcomes.

Norwest stands to gain the most leverage out of these permits, and with interests in five Perth Basin permits, would welcome the boost.

But Dr Doran is keen to offer caution.

“If it turns out to be disappointing we’ll be bruised but not badly damaged,” he says. “Despite the temptation towards high expectations of success, the reality is this is an appraisal program and not without risk.”

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