Australia’s shale gas resources

Shale gas has the potential to change the global energy market. Already, it has transformed the energy sector in the USA, positioning the USA as a potential net exporter rather than importer. Worldwide interest in shale gas has increased, and large shale gas reserves have since been identified in countries in Europe and Asia, as well as Australia.
Australia’s shale gas potential
There is currently limited commercial production of shale gas in Australia and the full extent of resources has not yet been ascertained. Initial evaluations indicate that our shale gas resources have the potential to significantly contribute to the Australian energy portfolio. The US Energy Information Administration (US EIA) estimates that ‘technically recoverable’ shale gas resources in Australia are 396 trillion cubic feet (tcf). One tcf is approximately equivalent to Australia’s annual domestic gas usage. Western Australia (WA) alone was estimated to be holding the fifth largest reserves of shale gas in the world - approximately double the amount of gas held in WA’s offshore conventional fields. Currently the most economically viable locations for production in Australia are onshore sedimentary basins containing existing (or previously producing) conventional reservoirs that are well characterised and already host the associated infrastructure. With continued improvements to drilling and reservoir stimulation technologies, and increasing demand and energy prices, more basins are likely to become targets for exploration. Both small and large national and international companies are exploring in various Australian basins for shale gas and/or shale liquids.

Australian shale gas reserves
In Australia, exploration mainly targeting shale gas is being undertaken in the following basins:

◆◆COOPER (QLD, SA) The Cooper Basin stands out as the most
prospective and commercially viable region for shale gas development in Australia and has had most of the activities to date. The EIA estimates 342 tcf of GIP (gas-in-place) with a risked recoverable amount of 85 tcf. The basin spans 130,000 square kilometres (km²) and is Australia’s most mature onshore region with production of conventional oil and gas over the last 40 years. An extensive pipeline network is already in place, supplying gas to SA, NSW, Qld and Victoria. While conventional production has been declining, the basin’s unconventional potential, particularly shale gas, has sparked much interest from Australian and international explorers.

◆◆ GEORGINA (QLD, NT) The Georgina Basin is a region of proven
oil potential with target horizons ranging from 300 metres (m) to 1000 m. It is a sparsely explored green field area which has all the attributes of a productive hydrocarbon province.

◆◆GALILEE (QLD) The shale in
AUSTRALIAN BASINS WITH SHALE GAS POTENTIAL

the Galilee Basin has long been recognised as a potential hydrocarbon resource. The shale has exceptionally high organic matter content, a uniform thickness (~35 m), extensive fault-related natural fracturing and good isolation from aquifers. Water wells drilled over the last century have found evidence of oil and gas. In comparison to the other sedimentary basins of similar age the Galilee Basin, and in particular the northern part of the basin, remains relatively unexplored with respect to conventional petroleum, coal seam gas and coal. The major challenge for any energy project in the Galilee Basin will be the significant investment required in infrastructure to access markets.

Current shale gas exploration activity Current shale oil exploration activity Potential shale oil/gas basins
Reproduced with the permission of Geoscience Australia

2011 ‘Australian shale gas overview: a sleeping giant’ http://www. growth. has been identified as one of the few remaining virtually unexplored. Over 100 wells have been drilled in the onshore Sydney Basin. Its national science agency. The current pipeline is too small to be of any significant use for the transport of gas and trucking and rail appear to be the first option to transport products. industries. low domestic demand and gas prices and the large infrastructure and transportation costs associated with the remote shale reserves. and a tightening gas supply has made new sources of gas commercially attractive. WA). gas is Barney Creek Formation which has both conventional and unconventional prospects. Australia’s shale gas future While Australia has substantial prospective shale reserves. Other prospective basins include the Amadeus (NT. with a low population density and little or no industrial activity and a limited road network meaning any oil and gas production would require significant investment in infrastructure. health and sustainability.au/oceans/ea_Onshore. There is an existing 700 km pipeline from the McArthur River to Darwin and access to the Carpentaria Highway. Over 100 conventional hydrocarbon accumulations have been discovered in the Bowen Basin. WA). Therefore the feasibility of the resource needs to be carefully assessed and confirmed to warrant the large capital investment that may be needed to establish a successful and viable industry.◆◆BOWEN (QLD) The Bowen Basin in eastern Queensland occupies about 160.000 km² and is both onshore and offshore.jsp ◆◆SYDNEY BASIN (NSW) The Sydney Basin straddles Australia’s central eastern coast in New South Wales. The onshore portion covers 470. The onshore basin contains rich coal deposits with associated natural gas and minor oil shows. and onshore Bonaparte (WA) basins. The bulk of future Australian shale gas is likely to be exported as liquefied natural gas. onshore sedimentary basins in the world. located around 500 km southeast of Darwin. It has a maximum thickness of about 10. It serves governments. The basin covers 64.eia. CESREfs017-12 Australia’s shale gas resources .500 km from the Bowen Basin in Queensland through to the Gunnedah Basin in NSW. with major open cut and underground coal mines in the north of the basin. ◆◆BEETALOO SUB-BASIN (NT) The Beetaloo Basin. ◆◆ONSHORE PERTH BASIN (WA) The Perth Basin is northsouth trending hugging the south-western coast of Western Australia.ga.000 km² and contains a number of conventional oil and gas fields which provide gas to the Perth market via two pipelines.au w www. The basin is more than 3000 m thick and there is evidence that both unconventional and conventional hydrocarbons are present. technologies and skills for building prosperity.gov/analysis/studies/worldshalegas/ Bell Potter. commercial production of shale gas will require long lead times and long term investments because of the nation’s small population. There are indications of oil and gas in the basin.au Australia is founding its future on science and innovation. REFERENCES US Energy Information Administration.csiro. 200300 km south.000 km². Large volumes of methane gas have been found at shallow depths in the north and has potential for coal seam gas developments.000 km². of which about one third are producing fields. Officer (SA. The Bowen Basin also has vast coal resources. The proximity to the gas market in Perth. The Sydney Basin is part of a major basin system that extends over 1. The onshore portion extends over an area of about 32. ◆◆CANNING (WA) The Canning Basin in the north of Western Australia is made up of several sub-basins. is a powerhouse of ideas. The target for shale CONTACT US YOUR CSIRO t 1300 363 400 +61 3 9545 2176 e enquiries@csiro. ◆◆McARTHUR BASIN (NT) The McArthur Basin is a petroleum frontier basin with no prior shale gas activity. business and communities across the nation. The area is remote.000 m. CSIRO.’ http://www.gov. the southern half of which is covered by the Surat Basin. 2011 ‘World Shale Gas Resources: An Initial Assessment of 14 Regions Outside the United States.

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