Bass Strait the backbone of liquid gold

IN the 1960s, an equal share joint venture between Esso Australia as operator and BHP Billiton Petroleum Group (BHPBP) was formed to drill the first offshore wildcat well in Bass Strait, off Victoria’s coast.
Esso is a subsidiary of US-based oil giant ExxonMobil.
The JV discovered and spudded the Barracouta-1 gas field in 1965. The JV then located Australia’s largest oil field, the Kingfish, in 1967. These changed Australia’s position from one of reliance to substantial self-sufficiency in oil and natural gas supply, creating a positive flow-on effect for the Australian economy.
In the past four decades, the combined operations have generated approximately $300 billion in federal government revenue in real terms (equating to 2.1 per cent of all government revenue collected in that period).
The discoveries also led to major infrastructure development for the processing and storage of the oil and gas being unearthed from the offshore wells. In 1969, the first production plant, Gas Plant 1, was constructed   at Longford. Approximately 20km from Sale in South Gippsland, it was the receival point for the oil and gas output from Bass Strait. Gas Plant 1 was the first onshore facility used to process the raw gas and stabilise the crude oil, while also removing impurities and sorting hydrocarbons into stabilised products. According to the Esso website, the Longford complex has processed more than 3.5 billion barrels (556.5 billion litres) of oil and 5 trillion cubic feet of gas since production began in 1969.
Stabilised crude oil was then pumped via pipeline to another facility that was built in 1970 at Long Island Point: a small peninsula near Hastings, 75km south east of Melbourne. The peninsula was turned into an industrial port and building site for a crude oil processing and natural liquids storage facility known as the fractionation plant. It was used to store ethane, propane, butane and crude oil before shipment. A 634m jetty was also built to support the transfer of liquids from offshore to the onshore facility. The jetty had a 108m birthing head, and six loading arms for LPG and crude oil transfer.
Energy today Esso operates the Kipper Tuna Turrum project – one of the largest developments in the Bass Strait, which represents a multi-billion dollar investment in Victoria’s energy future.
According to the Esso website, to date almost 4bbo and around 7tcf of gas have been produced from Bass Strait. There are now 21 offshore oil and gas platforms and subsea installations in the Bass Strait feeding off a 600km network of subsea pipelines that keep oil and gas flowing 24 hours a day. The number of wells is expected to grow to 23 after the Marlin B platform and Kipper subsea well and topside facility installations are completed.
The project, which is a joint venture between Esso, BHPBP and Santos, aims to further develop the Kipper, Tuna and Turrum oil and gas reservoirs. It is estimated that the project, one of the largest gas developments on the
eastern seaboard, will produce enough cleaner-burning natural gas energy to power a city of a million people for 35 years. The Kipper field The Kipper field is in approximately 100m of water in Bass Strait, 45km south of Marlo in Victoria. The field is estimated to hold 620 billion cubic feet of recoverable gas and 30 million barrels of gas liquids. The Kipper field development consists of subsea facilities tied back to the existing West Tuna platform. The work includes two subsea walls, four coolers and a manifold, with the produced gas and condensate to be transported through a new looped pipeline laid on the seabed to West Tuna. According to the Santos website, following start-up it will lift 70 per cent of the gas production, which is twice the company’s working interest, for a period of four years. The JV partners are Esso (as operator) and BHPBP, each with a 32.5 per cent share, and Santos with the remaining 35 per cent.
The Tuna field The Tuna field has produced oil for many years and is being upgraded further to produce gas and associated liquids. This will be achieved by converting existing West Tuna facilities and using new pipelines to deliver product to the existing gas system. The JV partners are Esso (as operator) and BHPBP, each with a 32.5 per cent share, and Santos with the remaining 35 per cent The Turrum field The Turrum field is 42km offshore in approximately 60m of water near the existing
Marlin A platform. It is 45km southeast of Lakes Entrance and 320km east of Melbourne.
The field has an estimated 1tcf of gas, 110mmboe and gas liquids, and an estimated field life of 15 years. A new platform, Marlin B, has been constructed, installed and linked by a bridge to the Marlin A platform in Bass Strait. Marlin B, the first platform installed in Bass Strait in more than a decade, will process additional oil and gas that will be piped back to existing facilities at Longford. The JV partners are Esso and BHPBP, each with a 50 per cent share. Longford Situated on 169 hectares of land with adjoining farmland in a remote area, the Longford complex comprises four plants. As the demand for gas increased, a second production plant was built in 1976. The third gas plant was built and operational in 1983.
Two pipelines run 220km from Longford to Long Island Point, carrying crude oil for storage and distribution as well as LPG for refining. Both pipelines are managed from the Longford complex, where there is also a warehouse facility that stores more than 20,000 items for the offshore facilities. A heliport adjacent to the complex has a fleet of helicopters that service the company’s oil and gas platforms in Bass Strait. Long Island Point As the unearthing, processing and commercialisation of liquids continues, so does the expansion of the Long Island Point facilities. According to the ExxonMobil website, the 158ha site has three gas liquid fractionation trains, 19 pressurised LPG storage vessels, seven refrigerated atmospheric pressure LPG storage tanks, eight crude oil storage tanks, an LPG truck-loading terminal, and a jetty for loading LPG and crude oil onto ships. There is also a new control room and laboratory, warehouse, workshop and administration building. Moving forward In a March newsletter, Esso reported that significant offshore activity had continuedin the quarter. All the installation heavy lifts were completed by February and the project is now moving into the next phase: connecting the new equipment to existing infrastructure in Bass Strait. Expected to continue throughout 2012, this involves hook-up and commissioning of the Marlin B platform, Kipper subsea equipment, West Tuna riser access tower and associated new pipelines.
Esso also reported in the update that during December, electrical and fluid umbilicals that will control the Kipper field subsea facilities were installed and trenched between Kipper and the West Tuna platform. Setbacks and expectations In a 2010 media release, Esso stated that the company had commissioned the largest 3D seismic survey ever recorded in Bass Strait to locate potential hydrocarbon-bearing rock formations. The survey covered more than 3900 square kilometres encompassing known oil and gas fields, and resulted in a series of successful field drilling programs. Exxon Mobil Australia discovered another oil and gas reservoir at its South East Remora-1 exploration well in 2010. The well is 35km off the Victorian coast in Bass Strait, and the well was drilled in 57m of water at a total depth of 3605m below sea level. The well is part of the JV between Esso and BHPBP, and is currently being
analysed. In a February ASX media release, Santos stated that gross production capacity of the Kipper field would be 75 terajoules per day. However, in a footnote, Esso as operator advised that due to the discovery of mercury during development drilling in the gas field, first gas would be deferred from the first half of 2012 (due to the need for the installation of mercury removal facilities) to 2013. The Kipper Tuna Turrum project in the Bass Strait is estimated to cost $4.4 billion dollars. It will develop cleaner-burning natural gas supplies with 70 per cent fewer emissions and will use up to 80 per cent less water than coal in power generation. Oil and gas exploration and production in the Bass Strait and Gippsland Basin has an exciting future, with approximately 50,000 direct and indirect jobs being created in Victoria; 14,000 positions have been created in regional Gippsland since the initial discovery of oil and gas. “Bass Strait has a long history and a bright future. Combining innovative ideas and new technology with in-depth knowledge and experience, we have been able to significantly extend the life of the existing Bass Strait fields, and to find and produce oil and gas from new locations,” said ExxonMobil Australia chairman John Dashwood.

 

By Zana Kaic

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