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Australia as a Natural Gas Exporter1

Robert J. Foster
Robert J. Foster
140 William St., Melbourne, 3000 Australia.
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January 01, 1981


Australia’s population is concentrated in the southeastern quadrant of the continent, where the cities are supplied with natural gas delivered by pipeline from central Australia or offshore Victoria. Although further exploration could prove sufficient new gas to supply all requirements into the next century, current known reserves of gas are unlikely to meet full market growth to the end of this century.

Perth, the only large population center in the west of the continent, is supplied from sources on shore Western Australia which are likely to be exhausted in the mid-1980s. The Perth market alone is too small and too distant to justify development of the far offshore, deep-water gas fields of northwest Australia, and any further requirement in the southeast of the country is too far into the future to provide a timely additional load. The Australian government has therefore given permission for exports from the Northwest Shelf in conjunction with supply to Perth.

The Northwest Shelf joint venturers propose to develop first North Rankin, the largest of the shelf gas fields. Gas is scheduled ashore in 1984 with anticipated sales of 370 MMcf/day of pipeline-quality gas into the west Australian market, and LNG exports of up to 6.5 million MT/year. The logical markets for the LNG appear to be Japan and the United States west coast.

Approval for export from the Northwest Shelf was granted because of specific circumstances. The general question remains, however, should Australia export future discoveries of natural gas? Because of long lead times and high costs in petroleum exploration and development, potential explorers need an answer to this question before they explore—an answer after the event is too late.

The distribution of population in Australia provides a key. In the populated southeastern quadrant where markets are potentially available in the 1990s and beyond, all gas discovered should be reserved for local use for the present, subject only to exception on a case by case basis to meet the special needs of individual projects.

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AAPG Studies in Geology

Energy Resources of the Pacific Region

Michel T. Halbouty
Michel T. Halbouty
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American Association of Petroleum Geologists
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Publication date:
January 01, 1981




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