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Consultation the key for Roc and lobster industry

THE Cliff Head oil discovery partners are not expecting to benefit from any development before late 2004 at the earliest.

However, as the Cliff Head field is close to shore near Dongara, geophysical consultant Tony Saitta is expecting development to proceed relatively quickly.

Mr Saitta said progress could be comparable to that of the Apache-led Harriet joint venture further north, where infrastructure was put in place quite quickly following discovery and appraisal.

Following well-testing and joint venture deliberations, environmental and government development approvals will need to be obtained.

The partners will determine the most economic production and discuss transport and infrastructure possibilities, centring around options including pipelines, road and rail freight, the upgraded Geraldton Port, and a possible single buoy mooring system off the coast.

But everything depends on the results as they come in, particularly the testing of the considerable 360 million barrel Twin Lions prospect in an adjacent permit.

“Each set of results will change the perspective on everything,” Norwest Energy chief executive officer Ivan Burgess said.

The Cliff Head find is in an environmentally sensitive area, close to the Abrolhos Islands, in the midst of a whale migration route and within the locale of a well-established lobster fishing and processing industry worth $80 million annually.

Apart from CALM and other State and Federal government involvement to now, Roc Oil, operator of the Cliff Head permit area, has been talking with industry representatives, the local government and community groups for some time.

Local consensus is that a new industry would be welcome, with its potential to underpin economic development of the surrounding region.

Shire of Irwin chief executive officer John Merrick said the local council and community groups had been involved with the joint venture partners since they began exploration.

“They have exceeded all expectations in terms of consultation,” he said.

“Roc has always answered all the questions – when they will be here, for how long, what they are doing, what they hope to achieve.”

The shire supports a population of 3,000 at present – most residing in Dongara and Port Denison – but is planning for 10,000 by 2010.

While recognising decisions would depend on the outcome of this summer’s exploration and appraisal program, Mr Merrick said the shire hoped oil would be brought onshore for some sort of preliminary processing, and that workers would be attracted to stay rather than operate on a fly-in/fly-out basis.

“We have a lifestyle second to none here, and will be happy to facilitate approvals for building,” he said.

Gary Parker, president of the Dongara Professional Fisherman’s Association, said the group had appreciated the extensive consultation with Roc Oil and a study done through the Rock Lobster Council on the effects hydro-carbon exploration could have on the local industry.

“Even when things have gone beyond their control, they have been prepared to back up their assurances and have been willing to compensate,” he said.

 “Our main concern would

be a spill or accident. This could affect the industry

and the whole coastline.”

Mr Parker acknowledged a new industry would take some getting used to.

“It’s been a closed shop for the rock lobster industry here for years, with past drilling further offshore having minimal impact,” he said.

“But the rock lobster industry rates quite small when compared with the oil industry.

“The business community would welcome the boost to activity.”

As with the Irwin Shire, Mr Parker said the fishing industry would prefer an onshore receival facility, should a local oil industry be established.

Cliff Head-3 could have a well life of up to 10 years, depending on recovery rates.

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