Oil and Gas continued
Offshore exploration for oil and gas began in 1961 off the Exmouth Gulf with seismic surveys being conducted by Wapet. In 1963 Woodside Petroleum secured
exploration permits for 367,000 square kilometres off the Western Australian coast. Their first well was drilled in 1968, showing a small non-commercial deposit of oil, but giving a big impetus to offshore
A major gas field was eventually discovered by Woodside in 1971 in the northern
Carnarvon Basin. Known as the North West Shelf , it comprised finds at North Rankin, Goodwyn and Angel gas fields, some 130 kilometres off the coast of Dampier, in
Western Australia's Pilbara region. These fields were eventually to form the basis of Australia's biggest energy resource development: the North West Gas Project.
In 1977 the Western Australian State government approved the development of the huge North Rankin field by guaranteeing the domestic consumption of natural gas
from the project. Delivery of North West Shelf natural gas to customers in Western Australia began in 1984 under long-term contracts with the State Government-owned
energy utility. The remainder of gas produced was to be exported as Australian Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG). This began in 1989 under 20 year contracts with eight
power and gas utilities in Japan. In addition, spot sales of LNG have been made to Spain, South Korea, Turkey and the United States.
Wapet also made a major gas find at West Tryal in 1973. Over the next two decades
five fields were discovered - Gorgon, Chrysaor, Dionysus, West Tryal Rocks and Spar - called collectively, Greater Gorgon. These deep offshore fields have been
extensively appraised, including eight wells in Gorgon itself. The final two appraisal wells were drilled and tested in late November 1998, with plans for production to commence early in the twenty first century.
Over the last three decades of the twentieth century the Western Australian oil and gas industry has grown into a major sector of the Australian economy.