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Historical highlights of petroleum exploration and development in South Australia are provided below.
|1866||First oil exploration in SA at Alfred Flat near Salt Creek (north of the Otway Basin).|
|1881–83||First drilling for oil in Australia near Salt Creek (north of the Otway Basin).|
|1912-30||Shallow oil wells drilled in the South East of SA by the South Australian Oil Well Co.: the deepest was Robe to 1373 m in 1915 (Otway Basin).|
|1941||SA’s Mining (Petroleum) Act 1940 came into effect.|
|1945||First oil exploration licence, OEL 1, granted (included a small part of the southern Cooper Basin).|
|1947||Australian Mining and Smelting Co. granted OEL 3 over 126 910 km2, covering the area of the now productive Cooper and Eromanga Basins.|
|1954||OEL 7 issued for 2 years over 312 095 km2 west of the Cooper Basin, then transferred to Santos (incorporated in March 1954) and combined with OEL 6: the area totalled 507 397 km2 and Santos held|
|1955||Oil shows discovered in early Cambrian reservoirs by Santos (Wilkatana drillholes, Arrowie Basin, 1955-57)|
|1957||Federal government’s Petroleum Search Subsidy Scheme (and its extension in 1959) provided financial incentives to company exploration.|
|1958||Checkerboarding agreement between Santos and American company Delhi–Taylor Oil Corp.|
|1959||First petroleum exploration well drilled in the Cooper Basin (Innamincka 1).|
|1962||SA Department of Mines establishes the Petroleum Section, which is led by Heli Wopfner.|
|1963||Gas discovered in the Cooper Basin (Gidgealpa 2).|
|1966||Giant natural gas field discovered (Moomba, Cooper Basin).|
|1967|| First offshore well drilled (Crayfish 1, Otway Basin).|
First commercial gas discovery (CO2) with oil shows in Otway Basin (Caroline 1).
SA Government legislated for Natural Gas Pipelines Authority of SA (later known as PASA)
|1968|| Amendments to the Mining (Petroleum) Act.|
Construction of gas processing facility at Moomba began.
|1969|| First petroleum production licences issued to Delhi–Santos.|
750 km Moomba–Adelaide pipeline completed and first Cooper Basin gas produced for sale and piped to Adelaide.
OELs 20 and 21 (formerly OEL 7) reissued as PELs 5 and 6, guaranteed for 20 years without relinquishments and the right of renewal for a further 20 years.
|1970||Crude oil discovered in the Cooper Basin (Tirrawarra 1).|
|1971|| Big Lake, Burke–Dullingari and Della Permian gas fields discovered (Cooper Basin).|
AGL agreement signed to supply Cooper Basin gas to Sydney from 1976–2006.
A potential source of geothermal energy was discovered by Burley 1 petroleum exploration well in the Nappamerri Trough, Cooper Basin. Temperatures of >400 F were recorded at 3650 m TD and caused drilling problems.
|1974|| Federal government’s Petroleum and Minerals Authority (PMA) took up Delhi International Oil Corp.’s offer for 50% of its production interests and 25% of its exploration interests in the Cooper Basin. |
Federal government’s Petroleum Search Subsidy scheme terminated (but work-in-progress payments continued to 1976).
|1975|| SA Government acquired the PMA’s interests and became involved in working PELs 5 and 6 through the SA Petroleum Exploration Group in the Mines Department.|
Cooper Basin (Ratification) Act 1975 passed, Cooper Basin Producers Unit formed and Indenture signed.
|1976||Supply of gas to AGL in NSW commenced.|
|1977|| Poolowanna 1 recorded the first oil flow from the Eromanga Basin.|
South Australian Oil and Gas Corporation (SAOG) created from the SA Petroleum Exploration Group.
|1978||First commercial volume of oil discovered in the Eromanga Basin (Strzelecki 3).|
|1979||Good oil shows intersected in the Cambrian of the Officer Basin (Byilkaoora 1).|
|1981||Stony Point (Liquids Project) Ratification Act 1981 passed SA Parliament and Cooper Basin Liquids Project commenced.|
|1982||659 km Moomba – Stony Point high vapour pressure liquids pipeline completed and the first crude oil production began, from Strzelecki Field.|
|1983||First exports of crude oil and condensate from Stony Point (now renamed Pt Bonython).|
|1984|| First sale of LPG to Australian and Japanese markets from Pt Bonython.|
First code of environmental practice prepared for petroleum, seismic and drilling operations by Delhi, Santos and Department of Mines and Energy.
First enhanced oil recovery scheme initiated (water injection in Dullingari Field).
|1985||PEL 29 issued in the Pitjantjatjara Lands to a consortium including a company owned by the traditional landholders.|
|1986||Tirrawarra and Moorari fields enhanced oil recovery scheme initiated (fracture stimulation and ethane injection, Cooper Basin). Multiple land use concept introduced: a regional reserve was established over the Innamincka Pastoral Lease (covering half of the SA Cooper Basin).|
|1987||Gas discovered in the onshore Otway Basin, SA (Katnook 1).|
|1988||First commercial gas flow from the Katnook Field (Otway Basin).|
|1989|| Twentieth anniversary of uninterrupted gas supply to SA from the Cooper Basin.|
New gas sales contract signed with the Cooper Basin Producers.
One thousandth petroleum well drilled.
One hundred millionth barrel of liquids shipped from Pt Bonython.
|1990||Permian-sourced oil and gas discovered in early Palaeozoic reservoirs of the Warburton Basin (Sturt 6, - oil; Lycosa 1, Moolalla 1 - gas).|
|1991|| Gas production commenced in the Otway Basin.|
Contract signed to sell SW Qld gas to SA.
Highest ever petroleum royalty payment of $61.5m received from the Cooper Basin Producers due to higher crude oil prices resulting from the Gulf War and from a renegotiation of the royalty system.
Naphtha replaced condensate production from Port Bonython.
|1992|| Oil recovered in the onshore Otway Basin (Sawpit 1; 0.24 kL (1.5 bbl)).|
Boral acquired Sagasco Resources (formerly SAOG) as SA Government sold its exploration and operating interest in the Cooper Basin.
|1993||First horizontal well successfully drilled, completed and tested (Meranji 14H, Cooper Basin).|
|1994|| First oil flow recorded from the Otway Basin (Wynn 1).|
First significant oil and gas shows recorded in the Duntroon Basin (Greenly 1), SA’s deepest petroleum well (4860 m).
Gas production commenced from SW Qld to SA via Moomba.
The PEPS database received a Federal Government Technology Productivity Gold award.
|1995|| PASA sold to Tenneco Gas (now Epic Energy), includes Moomba–Adelaide pipeline system.|
Access agreement between Anangu Pitjantjatjara and Hemley Exploration for petroleum exploration on Aboriginal land.
To facilitate active upstream industry competition, the SA Government confirmed no rights of renewal would apply to PELs 5 and 6 upon expiry in 1999.
|1996|| Santos announced a $200m exploration program in the SA sector of the Cooper and Eromanga Basins over a 3-year period.|
Ethane production commenced from Moomba to ICI Botany Bay via a new pipeline.
Producers signed the first separate direct gas sales contracts for supply beyond 2004 with ETSA (contract extends to 2010) and Boral Energy (formerly the Gas Company and Sagasco, contract extends to 2013).
|1997||PPLs granted to Santos in the Nappamerri Trough: joint venture production licences now held over 4100 km2 of the trough with a $100m tight gas research commitment over 15 years.|
|1998|| Boral Energy Resources signed contracts to build a 40 MW gas-fired power station at Katnook, following success of Ladbroke Grove 3.|
Bidding for the CO98 acreage release of 11 flank bocks opens in October.
|1999|| PELs 5 and 6 expired on 28 February.|
The first round of Cooper Basin acreage (CO98) was offered in October and bids closed in March; applications were received for all blocks.
CO99 acreage release opened in April and closed in November; applications were received for all 8 blocks.
|2000|| CO2000 acreage release opened in January; applications were received for all 8 blocks.|
Proclamation of the Petroleum Act 2000 and the promulgation of the Petroleum Regulations 2000.
Three geothermal energy (hot dry rock) exploration blocks (HDR2000-A to C) in the Nappamerri Trough were offered for work program bidding.
A key paper identifying high heat production in SA by Neumann et al. published in Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 183.
|2001|| Native title agreements signed between three native title claim groups (the Edward Landers Dieri, Yandruwandha–Yawarrawarrka and Wangkangurru–Yarluyandi peoples), the successful CO98 bidders and the SA Government for PELAs in the Cooper region.|
The first three geothermal exploration licences (GELs) in SA granted to Geodynamics Limited, Scopenergy Limited and South Australian Geothermal Energy Pty Ltd as a result of the HDR2000-A to C acreage release.
|2002||10 PELs granted to CO98 applicants. New entrants discover oil in three of six exploration wells: Stuart Petroleum - Acrasia 1; Beach Petroleum - Sellicks 1, Aldinga 1.|
|2003|| Native title agreements signed between native title claimants, successful bidders for the 16 CO99 and CO2000 PELAs and the SA Government enabling the grant of further PELs in the Cooper Basin, SA.|
The first geothermal energy exploration well in SA, Habanero 1, drilled by Geodynamics in the Nappamerri Trough (Cooper Basin) to a depth of 4421 m intersected 754 m of radiogenic granites with a bottom hole temperature of 250 ºC.
The Woodside-Anadarko-EnCana joint venture drilled Gnarlyknots 1 offshore exploration well in the Bight Basin at a cost of ~$53m.
|2004|| Prime Minister John Howard and South Australian Premier Mike Rann officially opened the A$500m SEA Gas Pipeline in March. The 690 km SEA Gas pipeline, from Victorian Otway Basin gas fields, has doubled gas supply capacity into SA gas markets.|
Over-the-counter applications for geothermal exploration licences (GELs) allowed, triggering a rush of applications.
|2005|| Santos celebrated its 50th year in the petroleum exploration and production business.|
PIRSA Petroleum and Geothermal Group’s Director became Australia’s national representative to the OECD’s International Energy Agency’s geothermal research cluster.
AusIndustry offer the first round of Renewable Energy Development Initiative (REDI) grants for the Geodynamics Innamincka Hot Fractured Rock Power Plant and Panax Limestone Coast projects projects.
|2006|| Beach Petroleum became a Santos joint venture partner in the SA Cooper Basin, following its acquisition of Delhi Petroleum Group and its joint venture interests with equity interests in excess of 200 oil and gas fields in the Cooper Basin in SA and Qld.|
The total prospective area of the state held under licence more than doubled, from 66 109 to 140 225 km2, following expeditious conclusion of native title land access agreements in the Arckaringa Basin between SAPEX, the Yankunytjatjara–Antakirinja native title holders, the Antakirinja Matu – Yankunytjatjara and Arabunna native title claimants and the government.
Victoria Petroleum discover Growler 1 and Wirraway 1, opening up the western Cooper Basin Birkhead channel stratigraphic oil play.
Australian Geothermal Energy Group (AGEG) formed to provide financial and intellectual support for Australia's membership in the International Energy Agency’s Geothermal Implementing Agreement.
|2007|| In February the Yandruwandha–Yawarrawarrka people entered into the first petroleum ILUA in the SA Cooper Basin over ~40 000 km2. This agreement also represents the first conjunctive petroleum ILUA in a productive basin in Australia.|
Jacaranda Ridge 2, in the Otway Basin, discovered condensate in August.
|2008||Beach successfully apply 3D seismic to stratigraphic traps and discover gas at Brownlow 1 in the Cooper Basin|
|2009|| Petratherm drilled Paralana 2, part of the Paralana Geothermal Project in June. |
Panax drill Salamander 1, part of the Otway Basin Geothermal Project.
CO2009 acreage release closes on 15 October with 20 bids by eleven explorers for the five blocks.
|2010|| Beach Energy drill Encounter 1, the first well to test the Roseneath-Epsilon-Murteree shale gas play in the Cooper Basin.|
PIRSA establish an Industry-Government LNG Roundtable to examine options for infrastructure and technologies for potential future South Australian LNG exports.
|2011|| Beach Energy completed a 7 stage fracture stimulation of Holdfast 1, which then flowed gas at up to 2 MMscf/d.|
Petratherm successfully conduct the Paralana 2 fracture stimulation as part of the Paralana Geothermal Energy Project.
Exploration Permits for Petroleum EPPs 37-40 in the Bight Basin were awarded to BP on the basis of one of the largest work programs ever seen for offshore SA.
|2012|| In October, Santos Moomba 191 supplies the first commercial unconventional gas to markets in Australia. |
Beach Energy spud Holdfast 2 in the Nappamerri Trough targeting the REM unconventional gas play in December, the first horizontal well to be drilled in the State.
|2013|| Five working groups have been established to address the priority issues arising from the Roadmap for Unconventional Gas.|
Geodynamic’s 1 MWe Habanero Pilot Plant Trial was successfully completed and the plant shut down in October. Plant operated for 160 days following commissioning on 30 April 2013.
EPPs 44 and 45 were granted to Chevron Australia New Ventures Pty Ltd and EPP 43 was granted to Murphy Australia Oil Pty Ltd and Santos Ltd. The Primary Term (years 1-3) work commitment across all 3 permits totals $536 million (guaranteed), the Secondary Term (years 4-6) across all 3 permits $63 million (non-guaranteed).
|2014||The Petroleum Retention Licence scheme has accelerated $500m exploration and delivered the top Roadmap recommendation – fit for purpose licences.|
|2015||South Australia ranked top in the world for Fiscal Terms and top in Oceania region in the 2015 Fraser Institute Global Petroleum Survey.|
BP announced its withdrawal from exploration in EPPs 40,41,42 and 43. citing changes in their global portfolio due to low oil prices. BP’s Joint Venture partner Statoil takes up operatorship of two permits (EPPs 39 and 40).
Round 1 of the South Australian Government’s $24 million PACE Gas Grant Program was launched in November to accelerate investment in gas projects in South Australia through targeted competitive grants.
The two rounds of the SA Government’s $48 million PACE Gas Grant Program attracted 23 applications from 15 companies and resulted in nine projects with a total investment from industry of $271 million. Project are targeting 217PJ of gas with 1957PJ of follow up potential.
Beach Energy’s Haselgrove 3ST1 gas discovery in the Otway Basin is co-funded by a $6 million PACE Gas grant.
Oil and Gas Royalty Return scheme established to provide a 10% share of state royalties to landowners with productive petroleum resources underlying their property.
SA ranked 10th in the world and first in the Oceania Region in the 2017 Fraser Institute Global Petroleum survey.
Chevron announces its withdrawal from EPPs 44 and 45 in the Bight Basin.
Beach Energy complete the acquisition of Lattice Energy from Origin Energy and receive a $11 million SA government grant to remain headquartered in Adelaide
Senex Energy’s Gemba 1 discovered a new Cooper Basin gas field.
Santos’ Cooper Basin re-fracture stimulation and underbalanced drilling programs produce gas.
Senex-Santos-Beach Vanessa East Pipeline began delivery of gas in July 2018
History of petroleum in South Australia - selected publications
Professor Heli Wopfner
Biography - Prof. Dr. Helmut (Heli) Wopfner
In search of new concepts
(Wopfner, H. 2020)
Reg Sprigg's dude ranch at Cullyamurra Waterhole
(Wopfner, H. 2018)
Trials and tribulations — oil search as a family outing.
(Wopfner, H. and Wopfner, I. 2017)
(Wopfner, H. 2016)
Gidgealpa 2: 50th anniversary of the first gas flow in the Cooper Basin.
(Wopfner, H. 2013)
A road across the desert
(Wopfner, H. 2012 )
Reg Sprigg – Rock Star
Quests, Questions In The Cooper Basin
Weidenbach, K. 2015
Pipelining in South Australia – Where it all started: The Moomba-Adelaide Pipeline
(October 2017. from Pipeliner website https://www.pipeliner.com.au/2016/03/16/pipelining-in-south-australia-where-it-all-started-the-moomba-adelaide-pipeline/ )
Centenary of Eyre Peninsula’s forgotten petroleum well
(Poynton, D. 2014)
Above and Below - The South Australian Department of Mines and Energy, 1944 to 1994.
(O'Neil, B.J., 1995.)
Beach Energy Ltd
State Library - aspects of petroleum exploration in the Cooper and Eromanga Basins of North East South Australia circa 1979.
(Photographs provided by Dr T Mount)