Perth Basin a slow burn

DEVELOPMENT of the Perth Basin’s oil and gas fields has proceeded in fits and starts over the past 30 years. The area was first developed in the early 1970s when the onshore Dongara gas field was commissioned and the Parmelia gas pipeline to Perth was built. The area has attracted some big Western Australian names, including Denis Horgan’s Barrick House Group, which discovered the Beharra Springs gas fields. And in the late 1980s, ARC Energy’s newly appointed chairman David Griffiths worked for Barrick, overseeing the rationalisation of the group. Barrick’s Perth Basin assets were acquired by Discovery Petroleum, then run by current ARC Energy managing director Eric Streitberg. Discovery had major success in the area before being bought by UK company, Premier Oil, in 1996. Mr Streitberg said Premier never fully focused its attention on the Perth Basin. “The potential of the basin was never properly explored,” he said. “Part of our ambition with ARC was to continue that exploration and try and realise that geological potential.” ARC started acquiring assets in the area in 1998 and, despite bringing in Origin Energy as a joint venture partner, struggled for several years. “We were underfunded and struggled with the technical data,” Mr Streitberg said. ARC’s fortunes improved dramatically in 2001 when it was part of a consortium that discovered the Hovea onshore oil field. Later that year it had a small interest in the consortium that discovered the offshore Cliff Head oil field, which is currently being developed by Roc Oil. Cliff Head is the first offshore oil field to be developed in the Perth Basin and is scheduled to be in production early next year. Several oil and gas fields have since been developed in the region, including Jingemia, Eremia and Xyris, and drilling programs at fields like Tarantula and Elegans are expected to support further developments.

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