Santos Targets Growing Cooper Basin Oil Production

Cooper Basin, Australia
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Santos is targeting growing oil production from its Cooper Basin assets in Australia.

Speaking at a PESA symposium in Adelaide today, Santos' Exploration Manager Central Business Unit, Mr. John Chambers, said that after a seventeen year period of decline, Cooper Basin oil production was expected to be stable in 2004 and then to grow from 2005.

This positive outlook for the Basin coincides with Santos marking its 50th year of operations in 2004.

The recently discovered Reg Sprigg oil field, named after a Santos pioneer, will be one of the contributors to stronger oil production.

Mr. Chambers said the improving outlook reflected Santos' new strategy of more efficient use of its existing large infrastructure footprint in the Cooper Basin, combined with new technologies and production optimization initiatives over the "old fields".

"We can move quickly and this is an advantage in the current environment of high oil prices," he said.

Reg Sprigg 3 success

The most recent success in creating new opportunities in existing acreage is the Reg Sprigg-3 appraisal well drilled this month.

"Reg Sprigg-3 is another example of the numerous bread-and-butter oil and gas fields available to Santos throughout the Cooper Basin," Mr. Chambers said.

"This well flowed oil at nearly 3,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) from two separate zones and gas at 9 million standard cubic feet per day," he said.

"It is further evidence of how the use of new technology and techniques to increase and maximize the return from the Cooper Basin, is opening up new plays."

Mr. Chambers said the Reg Sprigg-3 discovery has implications for Santos' exploration acreage in South West Queensland and will be followed-up with a 3D seismic survey.

Other oil successes in 2003 included the Pelican-11 and Merrimelia-43 oil delineation wells drilled in August and October, which came on at initial rates of 4,600 and 5,680 bopd respectively.

Both these wells identified new oil pools in areas outside of previously mapped accumulations. Merrimelia-43 has produced in excess of 250,000 barrels since December.

Mr. Chambers also told delegates that not only was Santos recovering more oil from the Basin but was also achieving it at a lower cost.

The cost of drilling, completing and connecting each oil well has been reduced by $500,000 in the JALBU project, while average drill times have been reduced from 9.2 days to 7.4 days per well.

Working with Independents

Mr. Chambers said Santos was also working closely with joint venture partners and new Cooper Basin independents, to maximize economic production for all producers in the province.

"Santos' transport and processing facilities can play an important role in the future export of Cooper Basin product from existing or new reservoirs," he said.

Two-pronged approach

Mr. Chambers said Santos as Operator of the Cooper Basin joint venture, was using a two-pronged approach to increase overall oil production.

The first approach was to increase production from existing fields through infill drilling and secondary oil recovery techniques such as water-floods within existing fields.

The second strategy was to focus on new opportunities now possible with better seismic definition. This included detailed reprocessing of 3D seismic surveys, sequential stratigraphic interpretation and more cost-effective 'fit-for-purpose' drilling rigs, to extract more product from the Basin.

Santos is employing new 3D seismic technology to image previously unseen details of reservoirs. This new technology, combined with advances in drilling and fracturing technology, is opening up reserves in previously inactive acreage.

Mr. Chambers described success in the JALBU project, which focused on infill drilling and a pilot water-flood project within existing fields in the Murteree Horst Area south of Moomba. The project is a success, with more than 1,700 barrels of oil per day being realized. Further increases in this figure are likely through optimization of facilities during 2004.

This is the first of a number of oil projects planned for the Cooper Basin.

1.5 billion barrels of oil originally in place

Mr. Chambers told PESA delegates that at the time of discovery the Cooper Basin had around 1.5 billion barrels of oil originally in place with only 264 million barrels, equal to18%, recovered to the end of 2003.

"There is obviously a large prize to be gained from increased recovery rates", he said.

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