Australia Outback Could Be Next World-Class Unconventional Play
- Jim Redden (_)
- Document ID
- Society of Petroleum Engineers
- Journal of Petroleum Technology
- Publication Date
- December 2009
- Document Type
- Journal Paper
- 28 - 30
- 2009. Copyright is held partially by SPE. Contact SPE for permission to use material from this document.
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A small Colorado independent believes the 7 million acres it has under license in the heart of the Australian Outback could very well be the world’s next gargantuan unconventional oil and gas play.
“This is a huge resource,” consultant Chris Moyes said of the Falcon Oil & Gas holdings in the vast Beetaloo Basin of the Northern Territory. “It is the biggest unconventional resource we know outside of North America. It certainly is of the same class as Gorgon and potentially bigger.”
That, indeed, is saying something considering the Chevron Gorgon liquefied-natural-gas (LNG) project at Barrow Island on the Northwest Shelf is widely touted as one of the world’s largest-ever production ventures. When combined with existing developments and some 11 proposed greenfield projects, Gorgon will play a key role in Australia’s objective of overtaking Qatar as the world’s top LNG exporter and possibly help reverse its declining oil production.
As Gorgon dominates most of the news coming out of Australia of late, Falcon is quietly going about seeking strategic partners for a prospect that Moyes said will be a “100-year project.” “It will take a long time to fully exploit a resource of this size and type,” he said.
Falcon is very optimistic about the project’s potential, particularly because it may hold almost 20 billion bbl of oil and 64 Tcf of recoverable gas and is located within a ready-made infrastructure and on the doorstep of one of the world’s biggest markets (Fig. 1). “We are very excited about the activity that is going on in the Beetaloo Basin,” said Falcon board member Steve Shultz. “We think it has the potential to be a very big part of the Falcon portfolio.”
Reservoir evaluation consultancy Ryder Scott conducted an independent analysis of the Falcon Beetaloo holdings and determined the prospect could contain 19.1 billion bbl of oil and 63.9 Tcf of gas. Those estimates were classified as “unrisked prospective resource best estimates,” which for undrilled prospects typically is generated by integrating seismic interpretation with regional geologic data and taking into account a number of geological risk factors. Those include the trap risk, source risk, and reservoir risk, which Ryder Scott defines as “the probability that a lithology exists with sufficient porosity, permeability, and continuity to contain moveable hydrocarbons.” Moyes said as much as 80% of the Beetaloo resource base is unconventional tight gas and oil.
More Seismic Needed
The Beetaloo, however, has not been entirely undrilled. Between 1989 and 1998, Pacific Oil and Gas drilled 11 wells, all of which showed the presence of oil and gas. Most of those earlier wells were drilled as part of a mining program. “They were looking for minerals, but of course, they got oil and gas shows and began to think of it as an oil and gas play,” said Moyes, president of Moyes and Company, upstream technical and transaction advisers assisting Falcon in securing prospective partners.
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