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New projects on horizon eagerly awaited

Australia has just one offshore field development in the early construction phase, but there are several new projects that look poised to proceed in the near future, writes Russell Searancke.

Cooper Energy’s Sole gas project off the south-east state of Victoria is under construction and is targeting first gas in March 2019.

It is a A$355 million (US$267.7 million) subsea development with two wells in 125 metres of water and a 65-kilometre pipeline to the Orbost onshore gas plant.

Major contractors include Subsea7, Diamond Offshore, GE Oil & Gas, TechnipFMC, Pipeline Drillers Group and WorleyParsons.

Cooper owns 100% of the Sole field, while APA Group is finalising its ownership of the gas plant.

Sole has a proven and probable contingent resource of 235 billion cubic feet of gas, which will be sold into the gas-hungry eastern states.

The next field development to enter construction is likely to be the ConocoPhillips-led Caldita-Barossa project north of Darwin, which will feature a large floating production, storage and offloading vessel, subsea production equipment, and a 260-kilometre 26-inch subsea gas export pipeline to a tie-in point on the Bayu-Undan pipeline.

Barossa will be developed first, with the gas reserves providing a new source of supply into the existing Darwin liquefied natural gas facility, also operated by ConocoPhillips. The aim is to produce enough gas to underpin 3.7 million tonnes per annum of LNG production, and 1.5 million barrels per annum of condensate over 20 years.

ConocoPhillips and its joint venture partners are targeting a final investment decision in 2019 and first gas in 2023.

It is conceivable that the Phoenix-Roc and Trefoil projects are on a timeline not too far behind Barossa.

Phoenix-Roc has been the standout exploration success in Australia in the past three years, with the Quadrant Energy-led joint venture drilling five successful wells and uncovering a new petroleum province.

The Phoenix-Roc project recently moved into the pre-front end engineering and design phase, which will determine the best development concept.

The joint venture is contemplating using the Roc field for a host production facility, and the various satellite fields would be tied in to Roc.

An FPSO is understood to be the base case, but other surface facilities are being investigated.

The Trefoil project in the Bass basin off south-east Australia is operated by Origin Energy and is being progressed quietly.

Origin began feasibility work in the second half of last year, and is understood to be weighing up either an offshore production platform or an all-subsea tie-back to its Yolla platform.

Co-owner AWE said recently the aim is “to accelerate feasibility studies” for Trefoil to take advantage of ullage in the (Yolla) system after 2020.

A couple of mega LNG projects also loom in Australia, namely Browse and Scarborough.

Security analysts point to the economic sense of gas from Browse and Scarborough being piped into existing LNG plants in Western Australia.

The Browse joint venture, led by Woodside, seems likely to pursue this option, which will be confirmed before the year is over.

Scarborough, however, is less certain, and a floating LNG solution is still on the cards for the ExxonMobil-led project.

Two other long-term gas projects are Poseidon and Equus, while the Jansz-Io compression scheme has lost some momentum and while Chevron and partners get to grips with the three-train Gorgon LNG project.

ConocoPhillips will turn its attention to Poseidon most likely after Barossa is developed, and if economic conditions allow.

As for Equus, Hess has postponed the project indefinitely.

Other long-term development candidates include the Shell-operated Evans Shoal field, PTT Exploration & Production’s Cash-Maple field, and Engie’s Petrel-Tern discoveries.

An expansion train at Darwin LNG is the subject of an ongoing feasibility study by KBR being part funded by the joint venture owners of Evans Shoal, Caldita-Barossa, Poseidon, Cash-Maple and Petrel-Tern.