Exploration activity in Australia has increased steadily since the mid-1970s following the downturn seen at the beginning of the decade. Almost four million square kilometres is now held under permit, and competition is strong for the available acreage.

Seismic activity has reflected this upturn in interest, with 63,000 kilometres of data acquired in 1980 and almost as much again in 1981. It is intended that the number of seismic crews operating in Australia, both on and offshore, will be substantially increased by the end of 1981, allowing further enlargement of the industry's seismic data acquisition capabilities.

Drilling has increased similarly since the mid-1970s following the unsuccessful activities of the previous few years. Approximately 140 wells are to be completed in 1981, and with the arrival of several new rigs in the country it is anticipated that the number of wells drilled in the coming years will steadily increase.

Up until the present, virtually all exploration wells have been drilled in areas of known hydrocarbon occurrence, such as the Cooper, Surat and Gippsland Basins. Few wells have been truly wildcat despite the fact that many of Australia's sedimentary basins have not yet been explored by modern methods. The scope for exploration in new areas is extremely wide, and the chances of an economically significant discovery must therefore be quite high.

Expenditure on exploration has increased at an even greater rate than activity, and this trend is expected to continue in the coming years. This overall increase in industry activity points to a very optimistic future for both oil exploration in Australia and for the country's self-sufficiency in energy.

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