ExxonMobil 50-year milestone

APRIL 14 will mark Australia’s offshore petroleum industry’s golden jubilee.

This was the day that the nation’s first offshore natural gas was delivered to its first customers the Westmore family in the Melbourne bayside suburb of Carrum.

The Gas and Fuel Corporation conversion teams arrived at the Westmore home at 2am to convert their appliances from manufactured oil and coal gas to natural gas.

Mr Westmore told The Sun newspaper at the time that the change would reduce his gas bill by 21 per cent.

“Everything in this place is gas except the light,” he said.

The Barracouta field was discovered in March 1965 – the first offshore gas discovery in Australia.

Gippsland production operations manager Stu Jeffries said achieving first production from Barracouta less than five years after that first discovery was “an outstanding achievement”.

“Starting with no infrastructure, no operating or engineering organisation, the backbone of the Gippsland production system was designed and built,” he said.

“We installed the Barracouta platform and started drilling the production wells three years and one month after that discovery, while pipelines were finished and Longford plants construction was completed.

“Eleven months later, Barracouta started producing gas to pipeline – the first offshore production in Australia.

“Eight days after that first production, gas was processed through the new Longford Gas Plant and was sold to the Gas and Fuel Corporation, which had built a pipeline from Longford to Melbourne.”

It took four weeks to fill that pipeline and deliver gas to the first customers in Melbourne.

The Westmore’s gas left Barracouta on March 8 and arrived at Longford on March 16.

ExxonMobil Australia production manager and lead country manager Richard Owen said the first Bass Strait discoveries and their subsequent developments resulted from the alignment of many diverse forces.

“It took the convergence of new technology, skills, knowledge, vision, determination and lots of investment capital,” he explained.

“They involved collaboration between government, the community, and the management and shareholders of Esso and BHP.

“Without the involvement and alignment of all the stakeholders, the costly and ambitious exploration program would have remained a geologist’s dream.”

The Bass Strait fields have produced eight trillion cubic feet of natural gas and 4.7 billion barrels of crude oil since the first well was drilled.

Mr Owen said innovation remained a hallmark of Gippsland operations as the company aimed to leverage off the vast infrastructure and skilled workforce it had built up over the years to develop new sources of much-needed gas for the community.

“The fact that we are returning to the Barracouta field with a new development project, and we are exploring in deep water for more gas, demonstrates how we are continuing the Gippsland tradition of exceptional people delivering outstanding results,” Mr Owen said.

Gippsland Basin Joint Venture in which Esso Australia and BHP each have a 50 percent interest, is one of the most enduring partnerships in Australia’s corporate history.

The joint venture operates 23 offshore platforms and installations in the Bass Strait and 600km of subsea pipelines, as well as onshore operations at Longford Plants and Long Island Point Plant.

During the past half-century, Gippsland operations have transitioned from a predominantly oil business to today’s focus on providing natural gas to Australia.

Today, the joint venture supplies between 40 and 50 per cent of east coast Australian domestic gas demand.