Ausgeo News  September 2005  Issue No. 79

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Strong interest in Australia’s offshore petroleum opportunities

The encouraging uptake of new exploration acreage shows that Australian petroleum exploration is on the increase. Bids were lodged for 22 of 31 areas released for exploration in 2004, with 16 areas now allocated and negotiations continuing with bidders for the remaining six.

Of 29 offshore areas released in 2005, bidding closes for 15 in October 2005 and for the remaining 14 in April 2006. More information on these release areas is available from the Geoscience Australia website.

Showcasing our petroleum resources in Asia

During May, a delegation from Geoscience Australia and the Department of Industry, Tourism and Resources (DITR) promoted the 2005 offshore petroleum exploration opportunities during visits to exploration companies in Japan, Korea and China. The delegation was well received, with much of the discussion focused on LNG and the Australian Government’s new tax initiatives to encourage exploration.

Fig 1. Geoscience Australia staff at AAPG, May 2005.

Figure 1. Geoscience Australia staff at the AAPG Convention in Calgary, May 2005.

Australia on display in Canada and the US

In May, Geoscience Australia again coordinated the Australian governments’ technical display of petroleum exploration opportunities at the annual American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) Convention in Calgary, Canada—the largest annual petroleum exploration conference in the world.

This year’s convention attracted more than 7500 delegates, the largest attendance in almost 20 years. The overall optimistic mood of the convention was driven by the belief that higher oil prices are renewing interest in exploration.

The Australian team consisted of officers from DITR and state and territory government agencies from Western Australia, South Australia, Victoria and the Northern Territory. The delegation answered many pertinent questions, which indicated a genuine interest in the opportunities offered by Australia. Strong interest was shown in Geoscience Australia’s ‘Big New Oil’ program, especially the results of the South Western Margins Project in the Bremer Sub-basin.

The consistent message was that explorers appreciate the Australian Government’s initiatives to encourage exploration, especially the open data policy, and they are keen to see more data come online.

Delegates from Geoscience Australia and DITR also visited five Calgary-based companies before travelling to Houston, Texas, for meetings with several American petroleum exploration companies. These meetings included detailed technical presentations on Australian exploration opportunities, including the 2005 release areas.

Upcoming activities

DITR and government agencies from Western Australia and South Australia are joining with Geoscience Australia in a delegation to the AAPG International Convention in Paris in September. It has been some years since Australian exploration has been promoted at this event and we believe our presence will attract a good level of interest.

Further promotion of petroleum exploration opportunities will occur at:

Australian Frontier Basins Workshop

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Geoscience Australia is hosting a two-day workshop in Canberra on 13 and 14 October to present results and discuss petroleum exploration opportunities in Australia’s frontier basins. New data acquired through the ‘Big New Oil’ program will be made available at this workshop, including interpretation results of the new seismic data acquired from the South West margin and results from the hydrocarbon seeps studies. Details of the workshop are included in this issue.

For more information phone Jenny Maher on +61 2 6249 9111 (email

Celebrate earth science

Geoscience Australia's 2005 Earth Science Week poster.

International Earth Science Week is an ideal opportunity for those involved in earth sciences to share the significance of their work with the community. This year it will be celebrated between October 9 to 15. The theme is "Geoscientists. Explore our Earth" and encourages people to learn more about what geoscientists do and how their work contributes to society’s wellbeing.

Geoscience Australia has coordinated Earth Science Week events in Australia since 1999 and is continuing to encourage participation. This includes production and distribution of an Earth Science Week poster to relevant scientific and cultural communities. The agency also maintains the national Earth Science Week website which details activities in each state and territory as well as information and suggested activities to celebrate the week. Organisations wishing to share their activities with the rest of Australia are invited to submit details of their events to be included on this site.

This year’s Earth Science Week poster is a dramatic submarine composite that represents several areas of current geoscience research. A wave on the cusp of breaking is an uncomfortable reminder of the threat of tsunamis, with gossamer-thin threads trailing from the wave to a satellite highlighting the important role of satellites in a tsunami early warning system. The grid superimposed on the ocean floor alludes to the importance of seabed mapping and characterisation. Strands of seagrass atop sand waves and a coral reef emerges from mysterious emerald green depths which include a sedimentary cross section. They represent the use of high-resolution bathymetry in important recent marine research in Torres Strait and the southern Gulf of Carpentaria.

For more information phone Jeanette Holland on +61 2 6249 9731 (email

Surveying Sydney

Sydney has won a bid to host the World Congress of the International Federation of Surveyors in 2010. The FIG General Assembly held in Cairo in April chose Sydney after fierce bidding for the Congress which is expected to attract over 2500 delegates.

The success of the bid was attributed to the attractiveness of Sydney as a venue, the inclusion of Australia’s Asia Pacific neighbours as integral partners and to the solidarity within the Australian spatial professions. The Sydney bid enjoys the national support of the government, professional and business sectors of the spatial information industry in Australia and attracted the support of 30 other member countries, particularly those in the Asia Pacific region.

For more information phone Peter Holland on +61 2 6249 9736 (email

Consortium for Ocean Geosciences (COGS) Conference 2005

Fig 1a. Orpheus Island Research Station.

This biannual event was held at Orpheus Island Research Station at the end of June 2005. This year’s conference was hosted by the School of Earth Sciences, James Cook University led by Graham Shields. The meeting covered a range of topics from coastal processes, catchment to reef dynamics, Quaternary palaeoenvironmental records, palaeoceanography, and marine biogeochemistry.

The conference was attended by 30 marine geoscientists and students from around Australia, with a large contingent of Queenslanders who gave excellent talks on the Queensland coast and Great Barrier Reef. Several talks highlighted the use of new geophysical techniques, such as swath mapping, and improved geochemical analyses. The student prize was awarded to Michael O’Leary from James Cook University for his review of the problems he has encountered dating Marine Isotope Stage 5E coral terraces from Western Australia to determine a sealevel record for the Last Interglacial.

Figure 1a: Orpheus Island Research Station.

Fig 1b. Mangroves adjacent to the research station.

The Orpheus Island Research Station is situated on the mangrove lined west coast of the island, the former site of an oyster lease (Fig. 1a and b). The station is the only development on the island other than a small holiday resort. The research station has recently been renovated with good accommodation facilities and a newly built lecture theatre. Orpheus Island is part of the Palm Island group, which is a granitic continental nearshore island northwest of Townsville and just south of Hinchinbrook Island. Orpheus Island has an unusually wide variety of habitats. It is surrounded by well-developed fringing reefs. The shoreline includes stands of mangrove forest, sandy beaches backed by strand vegetation, sand, cobble and boulder beaches, and steep rock faces. The island is dominated by eucalypt forest, with patches of other forest types and grassland. This provided an ideal back drop for the talks and discussions of the conference, and plenty of sites of interest to visit on the excursions around the island, including visits to stranded fossil coral reefs and aboriginal fish traps

Figure 1b: Mangroves adjacent to the Orpheus Island Research Station.

For more information phone Helen Bostock on +61 2 6249 9436 (email

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