The Oil and Gas Industry in Australia

Powering the world economy

With the world’s insatiable need for energy, the role of the Petroleum Engineer is now more important than ever. The world's resources of oil and gas provide some of the richest, densest and valuable energy sources available. Here you can find out about types of hydrocarbon fuel sources, the major players in the industry and how they are addressing the world demand, and even some of the associations that support Petroleum Engineers. Happy digging!

Types of hydrocarbon resources

Hydrocarbons are substances primarily composed of carbon and hydrogen. Hydrocarbon energy resources primarily consist of the fossil fuels: coal, oil and natural gas. Petroleum Engineers are concerned with the exploration, discovery and production of oil and gas wherever they are found — onshore or offshore, in sandstone or limestone, coal or shale. There are a number of different types of oil and gas resources:

  • Crude oil is the general term for fossil fuels that are liquid at room temperature. There is a wide variety of oils some light and runny, while others are dark and viscous. Oil was first developed to provide a cheaper alternative to whale oil which was used for lighting. It is the invention of the internal combustion engine that has been the greatest beneficiary of the supply of crude oil. The ease of trade and travel around today's world is built on the back of the development of crude oil.
  • Natural Gas can be found associated with oil or by itself. A non-toxic, odourless gas, natural gas is mainly composed of methane but can contain heavier hydrocarbon compounds and is becoming an increasingly important fuel. This is particularly the case with respect to greenhouse gas emissions, as it produces less carbon dioxide than coal and oil. Natural gas is transported all over the world through pipelines and, as liquefied natural gas (LNG), in tankers.
  • Coal Seam Gas (or Coal Bed Methane) is natural gas that is trapped in coal seams by both layers of impermeable rock and pressure. When the pressure in the formation is reduced, the gas can be produced. Major developments in the production of coal seam gas are occurring in Queensland and New South Wales.
  • Shale gas, like Coal Seam Gas, is one of the new, unconventional sources of gas. Unlike the USA, the shale gas industry in Australia is at an early stage. Australia has been estimated to possess significant quantities of shale gas and companies are currently appraising sites to see whether it can be economically produced.

In addition to developing hydrocarbon energy sources, Petroleum Engineers are also developing technologies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the production of energy.

  • Hot Dry Rock Geothermal is produced by accessing the heat trapped within the Earth's crust to generate electricity. There are a number of research projects going on around Australia to investigate the potential of this energy source.
  • Carbon Capture and Storage is a means of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to the atmosphere by using a suite of technologies for capturing carbon dioxide from its source, transporting it to a geological storage site where it is stored securely and  permanently.


Professional and Industry Associations in Australia

The Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) serves professional engineers, scientists, and managers in the exploration and production segments of the worldwide oil and gas industry. The UNSW SPE Student Chapter organises student events and updates on the oil and gas industry.

The Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association Ltd (APPEA) represents the upstream oil and gas industry in Australia. APPEA's mission is to achieve a legislative, administrative, economic and social framework which efficiently and effectively facilitates safe, environmentally responsible, socially responsible and profitable oil and gas exploration, development and production.

The Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia (PESA) is a non-profit association of individuals involved in the exploration of oil and gas. PESA aims to promote professional and technical aspects of the upstream petroleum industry throughout Australia. It does this by providing opportunities for individuals interested in oil and gas exploration to discuss technical and professional matters relating to the upstream petroleum industry. As well as fostering continuing education of its members and to maintain a high standard of professional conduct on the part of its members.

Engineers Australia is the national forum for the advancement of engineering and the professional development of members. With excess of 80,000 members embracing all disciplines of the engineering team, Engineers Australia is the largest and most diverse professional body for engineers in Australia.


Major Oil and Gas Companies in Australia

Many of the world’s largest oil & gas exploration and production companies have representation in Australia. Click on the links below to learn more about their exploration and production activities.

Apache Corporation

Apache Corporation is an independent energy company that explores for, develops and produces natural gas, crude oil and natural gas liquids. Apache is the second-largest operated volume producer of oil and gas in the Carnarvon Basin. It operates 16 oil and gas facilities, providing more than 30% of Western Australia's domestic natural gas supply. 

Arrow Energy
Arrow Energy is a leading coal seam gas company with five producing products, interests in three gas-fired power stations and plans to deliver a world-class liquefied natural gas export facility in Gladstone with an expected capacity of 8 million tonnes a year. 

Australian Worldwide Exploration Ltd
Australian Worldwide Exploration (AWE) is an Australian-based oil and gas exploration and production company. AWE currently has oil and gas interests in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Yemen, Vietnam and Argentina, and is actively reviewing additional growth opportunities. 

Bass Strait Oil Company Ltd
Bass Strait Oil Company Ltd is a specialist oil explorer focused exclusively on southeast Australia. This region offers access to prospects of material scale in world-class basins, a database of modern 3D seismic data, established infrastructure and developing markets. 

Beach Petroleum Ltd
Beach Petroleum is a long-established oil and gas exploration and production company based in Adelaide. Beach holds interests in more than 300 exploration and production tenements in Australia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Egypt, Spain and Albania (subject to regulatory approval) and continues to seek additional domestic and international opportunities. 

BHP Billiton Petroleum
BHP Billiton Petroleum is a key player in the global oil and gas industry. 

Carnarvon Petroleum Ltd
Carnarvon is a Perth-based company. Its principal activity is oil and gas exploration and production and it has projects in Australia, Thailand and Indonesia. 

Chevron Australia
Chevron is the largest holder of natural gas resources in Australia and these assets help meet the country's and Asia's growing need for energy. 

ConocoPhillips Australia Pty Ltd
The third-largest integrated energy company in the US, ConocoPhillips has assets and operations in more than 30 countries and around 30,000 employees worldwide. 

Cue Energy Resources Ltd
Cue Energy Resources is an oil and gas exploration and production company with a focus on South East Asia and Australasia. Cue's petroleum assets are located in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, New Zealand and Australia. 

Eni is an integrated energy company, active in 77 countries with 78,400 employees. it operates in oil and gas exploration, production, transportation, transformation and marketing, in petrochemicals, oilfield services construction and engineering. 

ExxonMobil Australia (Esso)
The ExxonMobil group of companies in Australia are subsidiaries of Exxon Mobil Corporation, the world's leading petroleum and petrochemical company. ExxonMobil Australia has played a significant role in the development of Australia’s oil and gas resources and has a business history in this country stretching back over 110 years. 

INPEX is a worldwide oil and gas exploration and production company involved in more than 70 projects across 26 countries. Their projects in Australia and the Timor Sea include the Ichthys Project, Van Gogh, Bayu-Undan and Darwin LNG. 

Magellan Petroleum Australia
Magellan Petroleum Australia engages in onshore oil and gas exploration and production in Australia and the United Kingdom. 

Metgasco Limited
Metgasco is developing natural gas reserves and power supplies for the eastern Australian energy market. Metgasco has already established a large certified gas reserve position in New South Wales. 

Mosaic Oil
Mosaic Oil is a successful Australian explorer and producer of oil and gas with assets in Queensland's Surat-Bowen Basin as well as interests in New Zealand, Western Australia and southwest Queensland. 

Nido Petroleum Limited
Nido Petroleum is an oil and gas exploration and production company whose business activities are focused on the offshore Palawan Basin, the Philippines. The company has headquarters in Perth. 

Oil Search Limited
Oil Search is Papua New Guinea's (PNG's ) largest oil and gas producer. 

OMV Australia Pty Ltd
The OMV Aktiengesellschaft is one of the biggest listed industrial companies in Austria and the leading energy group in the European growth belt. Australia and New Zealand is a core exploration and production (E&P) area of OMV and activities are focused on the Carnarvon and Bonaparte Basins of the North West Shelf, offshore of the western coast of Australia. 

Origin Energy
Origin is a top 50 ASX listed company involved in gas and oil exploration and production, power generation and energy retailing. 

QGC is a leading Australian coal seam gas explorer and producer focused on developing its world-class reserves for domestic and international supply. Much of its attention is focused on Queensland. 

ROC Oil Company
ROC is one of Australia's leading independent upstream oil and gas companies. The Sydney-based company has a strong operating emphasis, an international focus and a global workforce of 160 employees. Although ROC’s assets are spread across four geographic regions (Australia, China, Africa and UK), the company is predominantly focused on Asia and Australia.  

Santos Limited
Santos is one of Australia's leading oil and gas exploration and production companies, with high quality assets and projects throughout Australia and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Senex Energy Limited
Senex is a Perth-based company with two core areas of activity: oil exploration and production in the Cooper Basin and coal seam gas appraisal development in the Surat Basin in southern Queensland. 

Shell in Australia
Shell is a global group of energy and petrochemicals companies which employs around 2500 people in Australia. Shell has had a presence in Australia since 1901. Their business in Australia is broadly divided into "upstream" and "downstream". The upstream business is based in Perth and finds, develops and supplies liquefied natural gas (LNG), condensates and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) to overseas markets and natural gas to domestic customers in Western Australia. Shell Australia's downstream operations are their refining and marketing businesses.  

Strike Energy
Strike Energy is an oil and gas exploration and development company with high-margin production and active in some of the world's most productive basins including Australia and the USA. 

Stuart Petroleum Limited
Stuart Petroleum has headquarters in Adelaide. Since its inception as an oil and gas explorer Stuart Petroleum has drilled 34 exploration wells and 14 development wells. 

Tap Oil Limited
Tap Oil Limited is an independent oil and gas exploration and production company with interests in Australia and South East Asia. Tap has headquarters in Perth. 

Total in Australia
Total is a leading multinational energy company with 96,387 employees and operations in more than 130 countries. Total has owned acreage in Australia since 2005 and has interests in 10 offshore licences – four of which it operates – in Browse, Vulcan and Bonaparte Basins in the northwest. 

Tri-Star Petroleum
Tri-Star is an oil and gas exploration and development company with oil and gas interests in the USA and Australia. Since 1989, the company has concentrated on the development of coal seam methane gas from the widespread, deep coal seams in the Bowen Basin area of central Queensland. 

Woodside Energy Limited

Gas exploration and production company and one of the world's largest leading producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).