Esso gets nod to drill deep in Bass Strait


AUSTRALIA'S deepest offshore drilling operation, which will be in Bass Strait, has been approved by regulators.

Esso last week won approval from the National Offshore Petroleum Safety and Environmental Management Authority for plans to drill for gas about 100 kilometres off the coast in its Sculpin prospect.

The Age newspaper reported last week that Esso expected to drill as deep as about 2300 metres.

The well will be among the deepest globally.

The maximum depth of North Sea wells, for instance, was 725 metres, while the world's deepest subsea well is in the Gulf of Mexico at 2700 metres.

An Esso spokesperson told the Gippsland Times Esso would utilise the Ocean Monarch, currently in the Bass Strait for other work with the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture and other companies, "to drill an exploration well in 2019".

"This well is targeting a gas prospect, with the objective of proving up resources for timely development and contribution to the Australian domestic gas market," the spokesperson said.

"This builds on other recent investments in Victoria, including the AUD$4.5 billion Kipper Tuna Turrum offshore project, the AUD$1 billion Longford Gas Conditioning Plant and the final investment decision made in December 2018 to bring the West Barracouta development to market in 2021."

The Victorian government told The Age it supported a domestic gas reserve to give Australian consumers the first chance to buy any new gas developed in Bass Strait.

"We will consider measures that will increase supply and support energy affordability, if new resources are found and gas can be extracted safely," a government spokeswoman, said.

"We will continue to call on the Commonwealth to activate the Australian Domestic Gas Security Mechanism to bring certainty to the domestic gas market."

The Esso spokesperson said the joint venture had been an integral part of Gippsland for more than five decades, and investments in its operations were "critical to ensuring ongoing energy supplies and providing local job security".

"Our Gippsland operations have delivered highly skilled jobs and business opportunities to Gippsland and created significant long-lasting economic benefits that have shaped Victoria's and Australia's economic prosperity," he added.