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Salt, oil and gas suggest a healthy future for the Australian petroleum industry.

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Warren Entsch, MP

Parliamentary Secretary to the

Minister for Industry, Science and Resources


30 December 1999 99/422


Salt, oil and gas suggest a healthy future for the Australian petroleum industry


A major geological discovery, just fiv e hundred kilometres north-northeast of Lord Howe Island, may lead to an important new source of oil and gas for Australian industry. With such a significant discovery marking the end of 1999, the 21st century promises discoveries of oil and gas in new regions.


Warren Entsch, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, has welcomed the findings, describing them as excellent news for Australia’s petroleum industry. “Not only are the preliminary results a very positive sign for our industry, this is all the more exciting for being such an unexpected discovery,” he said today. "It shows the importance of the geoscientific research conducted by the Australian Geological Survey Organisation’s (AGSO) in little known offshore areas.”


Around one hundred large sedimentary domes were discovered buried under the seabed in the Fairway Basin, an area close to the Lord Howe Rise, where water depths are 2000-3000 m. Many of the domes are one thousand metres high and more than 10 kilometres long and contain sediments dating back one hundred million years. Such domes are a key component of many petroleum fields, and have previously resulted in major exploration successes in the Gulf of Mexico, off Brazil and off the west coast of Africa. The domes usually consist either of salt or organic-rich shale. Their presence in the Fairway Basin, forming structures that enhance petroleum prospectively, make the area a very favourable one for exploration.


The Fairway Basin may perhaps prove as significant to Australian industry as the North West Shelf if future exploration confirms the presence of petroleum-rich rocks in these sedimentary domes. The same team last year used remote sensing to indicate that gas hydrates (frozen mixtures of gas and water) were present in the area, suggesting gas has been generated.


“We still have a great deal to learn about this area,” said Mr Entsch. “Finding such significant potential targets for petroleum search boosts not only the petroleum exploration industry, but marks a great advancement of our scientific understanding of the Lord Howe Rise.


“The age of the sedimentary rocks is extremely significant,” said Mr Entsch. “Their oil bearing potential was apparently enhanced by being periodically connected to the open sea early in its formation. We are talking here about a period between 100 and 150 million years ago when Cretaceous salt or shale formed in the early stages of rifting between the Lord Howe Rise and the Norfolk Ridge.”


More than 90,000 square kilometres was mapped during the cruise in the northern Fairway Basin and easternmost Lord Howe Rise. Although only 5000 square kilometres of mapping was conducted in Australian waters, preliminary results suggest the large southern, Australian part of the basin too may be potentially rich in oil and gas. The discoveries were made during a recent geological research cruise conducted jointly by French and Australian scientists from AGSO, IFREMER, the premier French marine research institute and James Cook University. Research teams from AGSO and French and New Caledonian institutions will continue to carry out research in the area.



For more information: Dr Neville Exon, Research Coordinator, Seabed Mapping Program, AGSO, 02 6249 9347,02 6288 2034

Media enquiries: Anna Mc Phee, Mr Entsch’s office, 02 6277 4565

Heather Wallace, AGSO, 02 6249 9511


A background paper on the Fairway Basin discovery will be available on the AGSO website: on the 4 January 2000.




The below diagram shows the seabe d topography east of Australia, representing the area covered by

the recent research cruise of R. V. L'Aralante. The Cruise findings suggests the New Caledonian north

FaMay Basin has real potential for oil and gas, and indicates the Australian southern part of the basin

has similar potential resources.










lk  2000-01-14  14:19