Bass Strait gas was first piped to homes and businesses in Melbourne four decades ago from Esso’s processing plant at Longford. The first home was connected to natural gas on 14 April 1969, making frontpage news around Australia.
In November 1969, Sale became the first town to be connected. Within weeks, almost 8,000 homes and businesses across Gippsland had joined Victoria’s new natural gas revolution.
Boz Student, now a senior project engineer with the company, remembers the moment “They were exciting times and everyone was proud to be involved. We were making history and everyone wanted to be a part of it.”?
Now, almost 7 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas has been produced since the first well was drilled in the Strait – equating to 30 per cent of Australia’s gas production.
Esso Australia Chairman Mark Nolan said “Esso is proud of its 40 year association with the Victorian community via our operations in Bass Strait. It’s an association and a proud partnership that we’re sure will continue for decades to come.”?
ExxonMobil is Australia’s largest integrated gas and oil company, employing more than 1,700 people directly – 1,000 of whom are located in Victoria – and, in a 50:50 joint venture with BHP Billiton, operates 21 offshore facilities, as well as the Longford Gas Processing and Crude Stabilisation Plants, Barry Beach Marine Terminal and Long Island Point Gas Fractionation Plant.
Esso first discovered gas at the Barracouta and Marlin fields in the Bass Strait. Since then, Esso has found gas in surrounding fields such as the Blackback, Bream, Kipper and Turrum fields.
Mr Nolan says that Esso’s Bass Strait operations “have been a significant contributor to the economic development of Australia, creating approximately 50,000 permanent jobs and generating around $300 billion in Federal Government revenues in real terms, some 2.1 per cent of all government revenues collected in that period”.
Future projects in Bass Strait
Mr Nolan says that the future remains bright for Esso’s Bass Strait operations, with the Kipper and Turrum projects set to begin operations in 2011.
The projects will extend natural gas and liquid hydrocarbon supplies to southeast Australia.
The Kipper field, located in approximately 100 m of water, 45 km from Ninety Mile Beach, holds approximately 620 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 30 million barrels (MMbbl) of condensate/LPG.
The field is being developed via subsea facilities tied back to the existing West Tuna platform. These facilities include subsea wells, coolers and a subsea manifold. The produced gas and condensate will be transported via two new pipelines laid on the seabed to West Tuna. Drilling will take place over approximately three months, starting in early 2010 and using a moored semi-submersible drill rig.
A new 18 inch pipeline from West Tuna to Marlin and another from Marlin to Snapper will also be installed to facilitate Kipper production and development of the Tuna gas cap. First gas from the field is expected in 2011.
The Turrum project holds approximately 2 Tcf of gas and 110 MMbbl of oil and gas liquids.
The development concept is based on the construction of a new platform linked by a bridge to the existing Marlin A platform. The platform will process additional oil production and gas, which will then be piped back to existing facilities at Longford.
Oil production is expected in 2011 and first gas sales are expected from 2015.
“Together [the Kipper and Turrum] projects have enough energy to power an entire city of a million people for at least 35 years,”? Mr Nolan says. “We also have ongoing exploration, drilling and evaluation programs, which are already proving to be successful in increasing production from existing fields.”?
A long life to come
“Even after 40 years of production, Bass Strait still has a long life, and we expect to be producing oil and gas for Australians for many decades,”? says Mr Nolan.
“We are still drilling wells and finding new oil and gas reserves to sustain Bass Strait production.
“We’re focused on continuing to meet eastern Australia’s long term energy needs, and we’re confident that Bass Strait is able to do that for decades to come,”? he says.