The new program will see the Top 10 petroleum producer drill 69 exploration and appraisal wells in 2006-2007 - up from 19 in the current year.
Beach said the heightened drilling program is designed to increase annual production to above 5 million barrels of oil equivalent (boe) in 2007-2008. This compares to an output of 1.4 million barrels of oil this year.
Drill targets include an offshore Australian oil prospect, the Company's first offshore target in New Zealand and a Surat Basin well in Queensland – as well as current operations in the onshore Cooper-Eromanga basins and the offshore Gippsland Basin.
The aggressive exploration push does not include Beach Petroleum's current participation in a 75-well program in the Tipton West coal seam gas project in Queensland.
Beach's 2006-2007 drilling schedule includes:
"Our objective is to rapidly add to reserves in excess of production through exploration success, and minimize production costs per barrel," Beach Petroleum's Managing Director, Mr. Reg Nelson, said.
"Beach has increased reserves to around 30 million boe currently despite successive increases in annual production over the past 5 years," Mr. Nelson said.
"We are keen to maintain and improve on this performance," Mr. Nelson said.
"Strategically, our forecast production and minimum reserve targets have been set on current assets and their known or estimated performance ceilings and are exclusive of contributions from future acquisitions."
Key production contributors
The Company's expected major production contributors in the next 12 months will be Beach's key assets in the Cooper/Eromanga an Gippsland Basins.
The offshore Gippsland Basker-Manta oil project last month completed a successful extended production test and will move to full field production in October at an expected production rate of approximately 12,500 barrels of oil per day, net to Beach.
First sales from the 40% owned Tipton West (Qld) coal seam gas project – potentially one of Australia's largest onshore gas resources are expected in March next year.
Mr. Nelson said Beach Petroleum would also benefit from the emerging gas potential of the Cooper/Eromanga Basin, in partnership with the Company's strong oil production from the province and its recent move to take a strategic $14.5 million or 19.9% stake in fellow ASX-listed Cooper Basin producer, Great Artesian Oil and Gas Limited.
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