Old rocks prove their exploration potential


Senior Science Advisor 
Dr Marita Bradshaw
examining samples of oil shale.

A new for old approach to searching for oil and gas in onshore Australia is being presented by Geoscience Australia researchers at the annual Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) conference in Brisbane this week.

Exploration and commercial development of unconventional hydrocarbons requires greater financial and technological investment than for conventional hydrocarbon resources. However, recent development of oil sands, shale gas and tight light oil resources in North America has shown how technological advances can facilitate their exploitation.

Geoscience Australia's Senior Science Advisor, Dr Marita Bradshaw said the petroleum industry is currently broadening the targets of its exploration efforts to look beyond conventional accumulations, and is considering petroleum systems in basins which were previously dismissed by the exploration industry.

Dr Bradshaw said further work was needed to better understand how unconventional gas and oil resources from Australia's old basins could become a significant part of our future energy supplies.

"The search for unconventional hydrocarbons in these old rocks is already well underway in Australia, as shown by the dramatic increase in uptake of acreage and significant investment in exploration programs, including by a number of major international companies," Dr Bradshaw added.

In Australia, potential shale gas and tight gas resources are being targeted, particularly in central Australian basins where infrastructure is already established, such as the Cooper Basin, which runs across northern South Australia and south-west Queensland. In contrast, the possibility of oil is the key driver in basins remote from infrastructure, such as the Georgina Basin (Northern Territory/Queensland), and the Beetaloo Sub-basin in the Northern Territory.

To better understand the oil and gas potential of these old basins, Geoscience Australia is working on a series of unconventional hydrocarbon prospectivity assessments across the continent, with the first being undertaken in the Georgina Basin. A new stratigraphic chart resulting from this work in the Georgina Basin has just been released in time for this year's APPEA conference.

Over the next few years Geoscience Australia's petroleum program is set to evolve as it continues to build the fundamental datasets that document Australia's petroleum potential. This work will focus on revealing Australia's petroleum endowment and assist explorers by answering key geological questions and identifying prospective petroleum systems.

For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact: Geoscience Australia's 24 hour Media Hotline 1800 882 035.