Australia’s Future Energy Resources

This national project is evaluating the potential for new energy commodities hosted within sedimentary basins, including oil, natural gas and hydrogen, to support Australia’s transition to a low carbon economy.

The current status of knowledge of petroleum geology and exploration history in several underexplored and frontier basins will be captured to expand the national basin inventory.

The project aims to unlock the potential of underexplored sedimentary basins in central Australia (e.g. Pedirka, Simpson, Warburton, western Eromanga). In many of these basins exploration drilling failed to make commercial discoveries but did confirm the presence of active petroleum systems. Examining why past exploration failed will shed new light on these basins and potentially identify new exploration opportunities.

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Area of focus for continental-scale projects

The project investigates the feasibility of enhanced oil recovery using carbon dioxide to boost Australia’s petroleum resource potential while economically storing greenhouse gases.

To stimulate the hydrogen industry, new geological storage sites are being mapped for hydrogen fuel storage, including salt accumulations. The utility of geothermal resources in deep-seated aquifers is being assessed for hydrogen production. Importantly, the economics of blue, green, and natural sources of hydrogen are being assessed to inform investment and government policy.

What we are doing

The project incorporates a number of study areas and activities, including:

Energy Resource Assessment

The objective of the Energy Resource Assessment study is to identify the ‘yet to find’ hydrocarbon resource potential in a series of central Australian basins, namely the Pedirka, Simpson, Warburton and western Eromanga basins. These basins were selected due to their underexplored status and their proximity to oil and gas infrastructure in the Cooper Basin.

The ‘yet to find’ workflow is consistent with that used by the oil and gas industry to assess and screen opportunities prior to embarking on new exploration programs within a basin. The work will result in an improved understanding of the region’s prospectivity, a quantitative assessment of its ‘yet to find’ hydrocarbon resource potential, as well as building a framework for future resource assessments of sedimentary basins targeted by the Exploring for the Future and Strategic Basin programs.

Benefits

The Energy Resource Assessment study will contribute to delivering economic benefits for both regional communities in central Australia and Australia overall through developing an improved understanding of the hydrocarbon resources in central Australian basins, namely the Pedirka, Simpson, Warburton, and western Eromanga basins. It will produce spatially enabled quantitative assessments for both conventional and unconventional petroleum resources.

What are we doing?

Key steps in this study include:

  • a gap analysis to identify geological uncertainties and data deficiencies in the areas of interest
  • undertaking supporting basin studies to help address current knowledge and data gaps
  • well failure analysis to assess the significance of previous exploration drilling results for conventional hydrocarbons
  • mapping and spatially analysing the fairways for major reservoirs-seal intervals within key chronostratigraphic units
  • mapping and modelling the hydrocarbon charge history
  • developing a new workflow for assessing unconventional petroleum resources based on mapping the potential sweet spots where production is most likely to occur and modelling likely production scenarios
  • assessing the ‘yet to find’ prospective conventional and unconventional hydrocarbon resources.

The Energy Resource Assessment study will also enable an improved understanding of potential geological storage sites for hydrogen and carbon dioxide through identifying dry valid traps that have not been charged by hydrocarbons. The time-slice based reservoir and seal fairway maps, together with petroleum systems models for fluid flow history, will provide guidance for the identification of deep-seated aquifers and their geothermal and/or hydrogen production potential.

Hydrogen studies

The National Hydrogen Systems studies aim to support the implementation of the National Hydrogen Strategy through understanding hydrogen storage resources in key locations across Australia and estimating the natural (geological) hydrogen resource.

Practical hydrogen storage options are a key unknown in the establishment of a new hydrogen export industry, with salt storage being the ideal storage option. New remote sensing salt prospecting techniques are being tested in collaboration with other Exploring for the Future projects and states and territories. In the absence of practical salt storage options, depleted gas reservoirs or even mined rock caverns may be required.

This activity builds on Geoscience Australia’s geospatial-economic expertise to help identify prospective hydrogen production regions and zones through expansion and further development of the Hydrogen Economic Fairways Tool (HEFT). The HEFT tool enables decision makers, planners and investors to identify the most optimal regions to establish hydrogen production hubs. The tool considers availability and cost of renewable energy resources (solar, wind, hot sedimentary aquifer geothermal), water, and infrastructure required for clean hydrogen production. It also considers the resources and infrastructure required to make clean hydrogen using fossil fuels with carbon capture and storage.

CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) in Residual Oil Zones

Geoscience Australia, in collaboration with CSIRO, is conducting a 4-year project to investigate the potential application of CO2-EOR to unlocking new oil and CO2 geological storage resources in residual oil zones (ROZ) in Australia.

Residual oil zones are geological reservoirs that contain potentially large, economically producible oil resources and offer opportunities for large-scale geological storage of carbon dioxide but their occurrence and accessible oil resources are not well understood in Australia. These rocks can occur beneath or near an oilfield or in areas with no conventional oil accumulations.

Development of ROZ could be economically beneficial, help to address greenhouse gas emissions, and provide increased energy security through the production of new domestic oil resources.

Objectives

The CO2-Enhanced Oil Recovery (CO2-EOR) in ROZ activity aims to:

  • Help grow our hydrocarbon and CO2 geological storage resources portfolio by demonstrating the potential for CO2-EOR production of oil and storage of CO2 in residual oil zones in Australia.
  • Gain an understanding of the global ROZ production industry and the geological parameters and engineering approaches that define a prospective ROZ target.
  • Scope the potential occurrence of ROZ in Australia’s key oil-producing basins.
  • Develop a methodology for assessing oil production and CO2 geological storage potential in ROZ in Australia.
  • Test the workflow through case studies in the most promising Exploring for the Future priority basins, through geological and petrophysical analysis, core flooding experiments, and reservoir modelling.
  • Identify regions that demonstrate potential for oil production and CO2 geological storage in ROZ for further investment, research and development.

To date, we have:

  • completed a targeted review of the international ROZ production industry
  • completed a scoping study to better understand what parameters are most important in order to develop CO2-EOR activities
  • developed a workflow to identify and characterise ROZ in Australia, predict reservoir behavior, and assess the viability of oil production and CO2 storage through CO2-EOR.

What are we doing?

We are:

  • testing and implementing our workflow to identify and characterise residual oil zones in Australia, initially focusing on the central Australian basins
  • designing and building a carbon capture, utilisation and storage (CCUS or CCS) multi-criteria decision support tool to support the development of CCUS studies and help attract investment in CCUS in Australia.

For more information on our other CCS work, please visit the Carbon capture and storage page on the Geoscience Australia website.

Onshore Basin Inventories

The Onshore Basin Inventories study is promoting exploration and investment in selected underexplored or frontier onshore basins by providing inventories of the current state of knowledge within each basin.

Specifically, six onshore basin inventory reports will be delivered that contain whole-of-basin summaries of the current state of knowledge regarding the petroleum geology, petroleum systems, hydrocarbon prospectivity, exploration history and status, data availability and quality, critical risks and exploration issues as they pertain to both conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons. They provide a single point of reference and build on previous basin inventories, thereby creating a standardised national inventory of onshore sedimentary basins.

The onshore basin inventory reports identify critical science questions and key exploration uncertainties that may help inform future work program planning and aid in decision making for both government and industry organisations. These reports will be supported by selected value-add products that aim to address identified data gaps and evolve regional understanding of basin evolution and prospectivity.

Petroleum system modelling is being undertaken in selected basins to highlight the oil and gas potential in underexplored provinces, and seismic reprocessing and regional geochemical studies are underway to increase the impact of existing datasets. The inventories are supported by the ongoing development of the nationwide source rock and fluids atlas, accessed through the Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal, which continues to improve the veracity of petroleum system modelling in Australian onshore basins.

Outputs

The Australia’s Future Energy Resources project will produce a set of comprehensive geoscientific reports, providing new information and integrated datasets that will address exploration uncertainties supporting industry stakeholders in their investment decisions. These products will assist government with the formulation of future energy strategies, including Australia’s path to a low carbon economy.

Publications, interpretations and new data collected during the course of the project will be made publicly available at regular intervals through the Exploring for the Future website and Geoscience Australia’s Exploring for the Future Data Discovery Portal.

Data and publications

Collaboration