The big spending of oil and gas firms and a focus on deepwater drilling will see Australia overtake Qatar as the biggest global producer of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) by 2017, stated the latest research from natural resources analysts GBI Research.
The new study says that domestic and regional demand has spurred Australia to intensify deepwater natural gas production from the country's abundant offshore reserves.
Deepwater drilling is a highly rewarding but expensive and risky endeavor. Australia's offshore drilling expenditure in 2011 was $1.9 billion – $1.3 billion of which was dedicated to deepwater hydrocarbon production. GBI Research predicts this portion will grow to $2.5 billion by just 2016, while shallow water expenditure will exhibit minimal growth, increasing by just $0.06 billion during the same period.
Australian offshore natural gas exploration has intensified since the economic catastrophe of 2008: in 2009, 72 wells were drilled, but this figure has increased steadily each year and is expected to reach 153 in 2016.
The Australian government has been strongly promoting the usage of LNG as a primary source of fuel for heavy goods transport along its highways, spurring on further investments by creating a consistent demand.
Woodside Petroleum and Apache Corporation are the top lease-holders in offshore Australia, holding leases for 55 and 53 blocks respectively in 2011, followed by Santos, Chevron and BHP Billiton, with 27, 25 and 22 blocks, respectively.
For the entire Asia-Pacific region, offshore drilling expenditure will climb from $16 billion in 2011 to $24 billion in 2016, with an expected deepwater spend of $14 billion in the final year.
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