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Search for oil makes new records

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Statement "by the Minister for National Development, Senator the Hon. Sir William Spooner, K.C.M.G. , M.M.

Largely under the stimulus of the Commonwealth Government’s

subsidy for oil searcBn and greatly encouraged by the discovery

of oil at Moonie and shows of oil and gas elsewhere,

expenditure on Australian oil search is breaking all previous


During the year ended 30th June, 1963? the Commonwealth

subsidy payments under the Oil Search Subsidy Scheme reached

a record figure of £4,994?694. This brought the total

Commonwealth payments under the scheme to £10,028,725.

During the last two years the search for oil has not

only been intensified but has also been diversified.

When the subsidy scheme was introduced in 1958 it applied only to drilling but since 1961 the scheme has been extended

to include geophysical surveys. This is giving the scheme

new flexibility and greater impetus.

For quite some time before 1961 there were only about a

dozen oil drilling rigs in Australia. By June this year that number had increased to 28 and about 60 per cent of these

rigs are in use at any one time.

Geophysical exploration has also greatly increased. In 1958 there were six seismic crews at work in Australia and

Papua/New Guinea. At present there are about 40 crews and

of these about 75 per cent are in use at the same time.

Geophysical exploration and mapping are two of the most important aspects of oil search and these surveys are very costly. As an example, in June this year I approved a subsidy

for a seismic survey in Queensland which would·cost a total

of £243?000 and require 12 crew-months of work.

Oil search expenditure has risen steadily every since the

Commonwealth introduced the subsidy scheme in 1958. Up to .

that time total expenditure was of the order of £52 million.

By the end of 1962 the total figure had passed the £100 million

mark. Figures to the end of the financial year are not available but there is little doubt that by now expenditure would total at least £110 million.

During 1962 company expenditure (excluding subsidy) was

£12,5 million. It is estimated that in 1963 this expenditure ·

will rise by £3.5 million to a new annual record of £16 million.



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A further indication of the scale of activity in oil

search is that in the last financial year I approved 169 oil

search subsidies compared with 83 in the previous year.

Again the total number of wells drilled for oil in

Australia now exceeds 600, Some J O of these were drilled

in 1962. Nine of these latter wells, those at Moonie, were

completed ready to produce oil and one, Westgrove No,2, was

completed ready to produce gas.

‘There can be no doubt that the Commonwealth Government's system of subsidising the search for oil has been effective

in spurring the quest but in addition to this financial

encouragement, the Commonwealth Government, through the

Bureau of Mineral Resources and the Bivision of National

Mapping of the Department of National Development carries

out aerial photographic surveys and both regional and

detailed geological and geophysical surveys and mapping.

Broadly, the work carried out by the Commonwealth Government is aimed at providing basic background data for

use by the exploration companies.

The quest for oil in Australia is a task off great

magnitude. Oil is a fossil fuel and is most likely to be

found in sedimentary basins. Of the 3.5 million square miles covered by Australia and the Territory of Papua/New

Guinea, sedimentary basins cover about 1.5 million square miles. Thus the searchers have a vast area to explore.

The discovery of oil in substantial commercial quantities

would bring enormous benefits to this country. With Moonie

in production, we will have the beginnings of an oil '

producing industry. This would, of course, supply only

a minute proportion of Australia's needs but it is a good omen for the future. He would be a pessimist indeed who did

not believe that other strikes will be made» '


July 31. 1963 - P.M.