The controversial Cornea oil and gas field in the Browse basin offshore Western Australia is set for a thorough 5-year assessment by a joint venture of local junior companies banding together as Cornea Resources Pty Ltd.
The group has been awarded retention licence WA-54-R, which covers 6 graticular blocks encompassing the discovery. The permit term is 5 years.
Cornea Resources chairman, the veteran oil and gas entrepreneur and solicitor Geoff Albers, said a program to test the completion design and long-term production behaviour of the various reservoirs penetrated by wells in the field is the only way to assess whether they can support a commercial development.
The P50 oil resource estimate is about 410 million bbl in place, but the recovery factor is thought to be low. This, he said, presents a technical challenge to any would-be developer.
The JV proposes to conduct a series of engineering study programs to address these challenges to production and perceived barriers to commercialization.
Subject to the study results, a production test program will be initiated in the fourth permit year.
Cornea hit the headlines when discovered by Shell in the mid-1990s. Shell subsequently made a huge work program bid for surrounding open acreage in the 1996 offshore bidding round, including the proposal to drill no less than 42 wells in a $30 million exploration program during the 6-year permit term.
After several wells Shell realized that the initial potential could not be sustained and applied for a variance of its commitments. After a lot of controversy, industry angst, and media hostility, the government acquiesced to the request at Cornea, but forced Shell to use its spending commitments in other permits.
Cornea Resources believes a more measured step-by-step approach will answer the question of commercial potential.