Australia awards 11 offshore exploration permits

Total E&P Australia, Samson International (Australia) Pty. Ltd., and CNOOC Australia E&P are among companies acquiring 6-year exploration permits in Australia's latest licensing round. The permits can be renewed twice for periods of 5 years.

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Aug.1 -- Total E&P Australia, Samson International (Australia) Pty. Ltd., and CNOOC Australia E&P are among companies acquiring 6-year exploration permits in Australia's latest licensing round. The permits can be renewed twice for periods of 5 years.

Australia has granted 11 offshore exploration permits to 9 oil companies which are expected to generate exploration programs worth more than $800 million (Aus.) over the next 6 years.

Australia's resources minister, Ian Macfarlane, said the high number of bids, 21, showed that companies are interested in Australian offshore petroleum exploration. The areas are in commonwealth waters off Western Australia, Tasmania, and Northern Territory and include four permits in designated frontier areas (DFAs).

The government has offered tax incentives companies exploring in the DFAs.

Samson acquired two permits in the Northern Arafura basin off Northern Territory. Santos Offshore Pty. Ltd. received a permit in the Sorell basin off Tasmania. In the Bonaparte basin off Western Australia, permits went to CNOOC Australia, Total Australia (two permits), Goldsborough Energy, and Reliance Industries Ltd.

Australia granted three permits in the Carnarvon basin off Western Australia, one to Woodside Energy Ltd. and Hess Exploration (Carnarvon) Pty. Ltd. and two to Gerald Nelson.

Work programs
Applicants were required to nominate a guaranteed minimum dry-hole exploration program for each of the first 3 years of the permit term and a secondary program for the remaining 3 years, the Australian Resources Ministry said.

Samson will shoot 1,400 km of 2D seismic survey and conduct geotechnical studies over Permit NT/P74 in the Northern Arafura basin. The work is expected to cost $2.78 million (Aus.). Under the secondary program, the company has committed to drill two exploration wells and shoot a 400 sq km 3D seismic survey at an estimated cost of $33 million.

For Permit NT/P75, also in the Northern Arafura basin, Samson will invest $4.18 million shooting a 2,200 km 2D seismic survey and conducting geotechnical studies. It plans to drill two wells and shoot 700 sq km 3D seismic survey, which will cost an estimated $35 million.

Santos will spend $2.2 million on gathering 700 km of 2D seismic data and conducting geotechnical studies for Permit T/48P in the Sorell basin. The secondary work program consists of one well, geotechnical studies, and a 300 sq km 3D seismic survey, which will cost an estimated $35.9 million.

Gerald Nelson will reprocess 227 km of 2D seismic data covering Permit WA-400-P in the Carnarvon basin. Nelson will shoot a 40 sq km 3D seismic survey and do geological studies, which will add up to an estimated $1.29 million. Nelson later will drill two exploration wells and shoot a 40 sq km 3D seismic survey.

For Permit WA-401-P, also in the Carnarvon basin, around 104 km of 2D seismic data will be reprocessed. Nelson will spend $1.4 million on this, geotechnical studies, and a 45 sq km 3D seismic survey. Nelson will drill two exploration wells and acquire 45 sq km more 3D seismic data.

Total will reprocess 1,000 km of 2D seismic data for Permit WA-402-P in the Bonaparte basin. It will also do geotechnical studies, and acquire and interpret 754 sq km of 3D seismic data under a $13.2 million work program. Total will spend $59.4 million drilling one exploration well and doing geotechnical studies.

For Permit WA-403-P Total will acquire and interpret 1,984 sq km of 3D seismic data and carry out geotechnical studies. It will also drill two exploration wells, all of which are expected to cost $144.4 million. The secondary work program consists of geotechnical studies at an estimated cost of $7.2 million.

Total's Block WA-402P covers 5,150 sq km, and WA-403P spans 5,685 sq km. The blocks are 200 km offshore in a 100 m of water. Exploration of the blocks is scheduled to begin in 2008.

Woodside Energy and Hess Exploration (Carnarvon) beat four other companies to secure Permit WA-404-P in the Carnarvon basin. "The companies proposed a guaranteed work program of 2,748 sq km 3D survey, geotechnical studies, and nine exploration wells at an estimated cost of $196.2 million. The secondary work program consists of geotechnical studies and one exploration well at an estimated cost of $21.8 million," the Australian Resources Ministry said.

Reliance Industries picked up Permit WA-405-P in the Bonaparte basin and plans to reprocess 3,200 km of 2D seismic data and carry out geotechnical studies. It will also acquire 500 km of 2D and 600 sq km of 3D seismic data, all of which will cost an estimated $9.6 million. The secondary work program consists of geotechnical studies and one exploration well at an estimated cost of $20.16 million.

Other permits
CNOOC Australia trumped two other companies for Permit WA-406-P in the Bonaparte basin. The company plans to shoot 400 sq km of 3D seismic survey, execute geological studies, and drill five exploration wells for $81.3 million. CNOOC, under the secondary work program, will spend $80.8 million on 400 sq km of 3D seismic survey, geological studies, and five exploration wells.

Goldsborough Energy won Permit WA-407-P in the Bonaparte basin and committed to conducting geotechnical studies and shooting a 1,400 km of 2D seismic survey. It will also reprocess 2,000 km of 2D seismic data, all of which will cost $2.75 million. For the secondary work program, it interpret seismic data, conduct geotechnical studies, and drill one exploration well for an estimated cost of $15.6 million.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com

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