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Northwest Shelf Gas — Its Role in Western Australia’s Energy Economy1

J. B. Kirkwood
J. B. Kirkwood
State Energy Commission, Western Australia, Perth, Western Australia 6001.
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January 01, 1981


Western Australia comprises roughly one-third of Australia’s land area. It is a vast, sparsely populated area with 80% of its people concentrated in the capital city of Perth, and nearby areas. With its mediterranean climate the gas demand for heating and other residential purposes is comparatively small.

Nevertheless, Western Australia uses substantial amounts of energy. With only 8% of Australia’s population the state consumes 11% of the nation’s primary energy and 15% of petroleum products. In 1976-77, the percapita primary energy use in the state was 245 gigajoules, compared with 195 gigajoules per head for Australia as a whole. Western Australia uses large amounts of energy for transportation, mining, and mineral-processing projects.

Mineral-processing projects are dominated by the bauxite-alumina industry located near Perth. In the northwest of the state there is a very large iron-ore exporting industry and sizable solar salt fields. Both export mainly to Japan and the European economic community. These and other mineral-processing industries represent a substantial natural gas market and, together with new projects, promise a strong energy-demand growth for the rest of the century. Total primary energy demand in Western Australia is expected to increase from 312 × 1015 joules in 1978 to 846 × 1015 joules in 1998. These figures represent an average annual growth rate of 5.1%.

Unlike the eastern parts of Australia, Western Australia has very limited coal supplies. Natural gas accounts for more than 70% of the state’s fossil-fuel resources which contrasts with only 4% for Australia as a whole. Thus, faced as it is with rapid growth of energy demand, the state looks to the Northwest Shelf as its main source of fossil fuel until well into the next century.

Western Australia’s gas consumption is presently limited by inadequate supply. Additional gas from the Northwest Shelf could provide the key to a big increase in both mineral processing and related backup industries.

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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
ISBN electronic:
Publication date:
January 01, 1981




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