Western Australia sees opportunity in unconventional gas sector

As the global unconventional gas market gains momentum, activity in the Western Australian (WA) petroleum sector is heating up, said Kevin Skipworth, the WA Government’s Agent General to Europe.

With 135 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in proved reserves, Australia is a known contributor to the global gas supply – exporting gas in the form of LNG for over 20 years. 

While its shale industry is still in its infancy, Evaluate Energy analyst Eoin Coyne told OGFJ last June, "momentum has been steadily building with early estimates of 400 tcf of shale gas resources being present across several basins in the country."

In WA, two basins attracting attention for their shale potential are the Canning Basin and the Perth Basin.

Within the Canning, the Goldwyer Shale runs along the northern edge of Great Sandy Desert and stretches across 45,000 sq km of the onshore basin. It has generated particular interest since US supermajor ConocoPhillips earned a 75% interest from New Standard Energy last summer in exchange for $A113.5 million in drilling, coring and evaluation costs.

According to an April 2011 report by the US Energy Information Administration, the Goldwyer Shale contained 764 tcf of risked gas in place and 229 tcf of risked recoverable gas, the largest estimate for any basin in Australia.

Western Australia is home to a large portion of the world's shale gas reserves in addition to its known conventional gas reserves, known prospective areas, and potential tight gas discoveries, Skipworth noted. He believes the State’s emerging unconventional gas sector will play an important part in the domestic and international energy supply solution in the future.

“As the largest State in Australia, Western Australia occupies 33% of our continent’s land mass – with 80% of the State’s population living within 30 kilometres of the coast,” he said.  “This presents a significant opportunity for investment in exploration and development in the unconventional gas sector across WA.”

To foster this development, Skipworth said the Western Australian Government was focusing on initiatives relating to regulation, as well as skilled labor and training, approvals, safety, and exploration.

Skipworth will talk more about Western Australia's focus on unconventionals at Aberdeen’s Unconventional Gas Conference 2012 in November.

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