Australian gas production up but oil output down

TOTAL gas production in Australia grew strongly throughout 2006 but the nation is yet to find enough oil to substitute falling production, an independent energy research firm says.

EnergyQuest yesterday said total Australian gas output for 2006 reached 1566 petajoules, a jump of 3.4% over the previous year.

But oil production slipped to 117.3 million barrels, down 5.5% or 6.9MMbbl, on 2005.

EnergyQuest said production from a number of new oil fields, including Woodside-operated Enfield and Roc-operated Cliff Head, was insufficient to offset natural decline from existing fields.

Natural gas liquids such as liquefied petroleum gas and condensate output also fell.

“Australia continues to do well in finding and commercialising gas,” EnergyQuest chief executive Dr Graeme Bethune said.

“However, we still aren’t finding enough oil to replace falling production from our existing mature fields.

“The challenge to all new and current oil producers is to reverse this trend to avoid having to import more and more oil to meet our growing national demands.”

Elsewhere, total petroleum production was essentially flat at 442.9 million barrels of oil equivalent in 2006, compared with 442.1MMboe in 2005, while domestic gas output for consumption in Australia grew 3.4% to 908PJ.

EnergyQuest said this reflected strong growth in coal seam methane production, which gained 31.4% to 80PJ.

Production of liquefied natural gas for export also expanded, moving up 3.4% to 12 million tones on the back of higher output from the Woodside-operated North West Shelf and the start of Darwin LNG production.

Throughout 2006, Santos was the largest producer of domestic gas, Origin Energy was the leading producer of CSM, Woodside and the NWS partners were the biggest LNG producers, while BHP Billiton produced the most oil and natural gas liquids.