The Northern Territory is strategically located near globally significant offshore energy resources with an estimate that the Northern Territory has access to more than 30 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves in offshore waters. The Territory also has producing onshore conventional gas and oil fields with potential for further onshore development.
In 1985 the Northern Territory only had two small producing fields in central Australia. The construction of the 1673km Amadeus to Darwin Gas Pipeline enabled the supply of gas for electricity generation in major centres across the Northern Territory for more than 20 years.
Today, the Northern Territory produces oil and gas from offshore reserves in the Timor Sea, and conventional onshore oil and gas reserves in Central Australia.
Darwin is now connected to operating gas fields in the Bonaparte Basin (0.8 Tcf), the Bayu-Undan field (4 Tcf), and the gas fields in Central Australia via 2500kms of onshore gas pipelines and more than 600kms of offshore gas pipelines. A further 890kms of gas pipeline will soon connect Darwin to the huge reserves in the Browse Basin (30+ Tcf) through the Ichthys LNG Project.
The Northern Territory has developed the local infrastructure and expertise required to support high calibre projects:
- The US$37 billion INPEX-led Icthys LNG project, currently in the final stages of construction. Production is anticipated to commence in March 2018 and continue for 40 years. The project is expected to produce 8.9 million tonnes per annum (Mtpa) of LNG, 1.6 Mtpa LNG and 100 000 barrels of condensate per day at peak.
- The ConocoPhillips-led Darwin LNG project which first shipped LNG in February 2006 and has now loaded more than 500 ships. The facility has the capacity to produce 3.7 Mtpa of LNG and environmental approval to increase production to 10 Mtpa.
- The BOC Darwin Helium Plant, the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere and one of only 15 in the world, produces enough helium to supply the entire Australian market with additional capacity (over two-thirds) available for export.
- The $800 million Jemena Northern Gas Pipeline, which will connect the Northern Territory to the gas markets of eastern Australia by 2018.
Through the Darwin Marine Supply Base, the Charles Darwin University’s North Australian Centre for Oil and Gas (NACOG), Shell’s onshore facility to support their Prelude floating LNG project and the BOC Darwin Helium plant, the Northern Territory is creating the foundation for a sustainable, broad based oil and gas sector. The Northern Territory has experienced and continues to experience growth and diversity in the supply and service industries required to support these projects.
Advantages that set the Northern Territory apart
The Northern Territory Government makes strategic interventions, proactively supporting and promoting accelerated investment to realise the potential of the oil and gas sector. The Northern Territory:
- Declared that there will be no reservation of gas for domestic use in the Northern Territory, in contrast to contemplation of gas reservations in other states, allowing gas to flow to customers wherever they exist.
- Invested $110 million toward the construction of the Darwin Marine Supply Base, a dedicated service and supply base to support establishment and long term operations of the offshore industry.
- Developed the enabling infrastructure and expertise required to support world-scale projects.
- Actively monitors the Northern Territory’s robust regulatory system for oil and gas to maintain contemporary best practice and adaptability to new technologies.
- Fast-tracks approvals for major projects to ensure certainty for investors, including passing legislation to address project specific needs.
- Initiated a competitive process for private sector proposals to develop a new gas pipeline connecting the Northern Territory to Eastern Gas Markets. The Northern Gas Pipeline (NGP) attracted strong interest from national and overseas companies with Jemena awarded the contract to construct the NGP in late 2015. The NGP will be completed by 2018.
Opportunities for investors
Immediate prospects for continued growth of the Northern Territory’s oil and gas sector are strong. Recent fluctuations in oil and gas markets are expected to have limited impact on the long-term trends that support demand for Northern Territory gas.
Importantly for the Northern Territory, most new demand for gas is in Asia - a market which Northern Territory producers should find easy to serve. As an example, shipments from Darwin to Tokyo have a distance of only three thousand nautical miles to travel, or less than nine days voyage, giving the Northern Territory a distinct advantage.
Downstream gas industries
Over time, the Northern Territory’s oil and gas resources could support downstream processing and manufacturing opportunities such as methanol production or, when coupled with the Northern Territory’s large phosphate reserves, fertiliser production.
Service and supply
Regional growth in oil and gas activity is continuing to create service sector opportunities for Northern Territory businesses. The oil and gas service industry has grown significantly since the commissioning of the Darwin LNG in 2006, and has continued to develop strongly throughout the construction of the Ichthys LNG facility.
With the purpose built Darwin Marine Supply Base now complete, the Northern Territory has the capacity to serve projects across the Timor Sea and the Browse Basin, including the new Prelude floating LNG vessel.
The Northern Territory Government's constructive approach to development has encouraged companies to choose to use Darwin as a supply and production base. Despite there being alternative centres in Western Australia that are closer to these fields.