The latest Underground Water Impact Report (UWIR 2019) was finalised by the Department of Environment and Science and released in November 2019. It provides an important snapshot into the coal seam gas (CSG) industry and the gas companies’ plans for future development.
With the recent plummet in oil and gas prices, the figures and planned development for CSG will no doubt change. However the UWIR 2019 still provides useful industry insight.
Since 2016, the area of existing and planned CSG production in the Surat cumulative management area (CMA) (which includes the Surat and Bowen Basins) has expanded by about 17%. Currently, there are approximately 6,800 CSG wells within existing production areas. According to UWIR 2019, this is projected to increase to around 21,000 wells based on current industry development plans. Overall, this is about two-thirds of the number originally proposed when the developments were first approved. Some gas companies have delayed production in some areas and increased production in others. There are also some new areas of development that have been added within existing leases.
A summary of the gas companies’ production plans taken from the UWIR 2019 is set out below:
Arrow’s Surat Basin Project (a joint venture with Royal Dutch Shell and PetroChina) originally covered an area of approximately 6,100 km2 with a total of 6,500 planned production wells. Arrow relinquished much of its southern tenure reducing its relevant tenure area to 4,287 km2. It has also reversed its development direction, progressively bringing wells online from the south-east to the north-west, along the Dalby to Chinchilla development path.
Origin’s Australia Pacific LNG Project is a joint venture between Origin (37.5%), ConocoPhillips (37.5%) and Sinopec (25%). The project tenures run north-west from the
Chinchilla/Tara region to 30 km east of Injune, with another block of tenures south-west of Cecil Plains.
Origin currently has about 2,300 producing CSG wells. Since the UWIR 2016 each of Origin’s existing gas fields, other than Peat, has expanded – most notably Combabula, with an expansion of approximately 150 km2.
Since 2016, Origin has added a number of gas fields to its production plans. Ramyard, 25 km southwest of Wandoan, is planned to progressively commence production between 2020
and 2029. Kainama, located 30 km south of Chinchilla, is expected to come online in 2021, with the majority of the field in production by 2025. Dalwogan, directly west of Miles, is expected to commence production between 2022 and 2023. These gas fields add approximately 800 additional wells to the total projected wells.
Origin’s development plans will see development areas of Spring Gully and Combabula expand between 10 and 20 km between 2019 and 2027. The Peat gas field, 10 km east of Wandoan, is planned to significantly expand by 2023, from 20 to 130 km2.
Origin’s Ironbark Project, included in the UWIR 2012 modelling, but removed completely from the development plans provided for the UWIR 2016, is now planned for production again. The planned CSG production area of Ironbark is located approximately 20 km northwest of Tara, commencing production in 2021-2024. Origin intends to construct approximately 145 wells across 100 km2; however, the project is yet to obtain the relevant tenure and approvals to allow progression to production.
QGC (now 100% owned by Shell) is currently operating about 3,200 CSG wells.
Since the UWIR 2016, the gas fields Celeste, Poppy and Sean have been added to the fields in the Southern development area. Matilda-John and McNulty gas fields have continued expansion in the Central development area. The Northern development area is where QGC has expanded most since UWIR 2016. The Charlie Project was completed and linked into the QCLNG project area in 2017. The Charlie Project brought online a number of gas fields in 2017: Charlie, Portsmouth, Bloodworth, Golden Grove, with a number more to commence production from 2021 to 2024.
An additional 1,500 CSG wells are planned by QGC.
Since the UWIR 2016, Santos has increased its existing production area in the Roma gas field to a total of 1,300 CSG wells. There has been little change in the existing production footprint for the Fairview, Arcadia and Scotia gas fields.
The planned production footprint for the Roma gas field begins several kilometres from the Roma township and stretches approximately 30 km to the north and 70 km to the east. The planned production was expected to start from the north-east corner of the gas field in 2018-2019 and progressively work back towards the township, with the entire field to be in production by 2028. Santos plans to slightly expand the Fairview planned production area footprint in the north-east.
Santos has two (2) new gas fields planned for development, Kia Ora and Arcadia West. They are planned to begin production in two stages, the first being in 2023 and the second in 2030.
Santos and Origin joint venture
The Mahalo Project, spanning from Injune to Rolleston, is a joint venture project between Santos and Origin. Similar to Origin’s Ironbark Project, this project still requires various approvals before production can begin. Development plans indicate a planned commencement date of 2023-2030. The total production area for the project would reach approximately 4,000 km2, with 3,000 wells projected to be constructed.
Senex is a much smaller operator than the other gas companies. Senex has run a pilot project within the south-east corner of its Western Surat Gas Project and has planned staged production commencement across the area from 2019 to 2040. A total of about 700 wells are planned.
Senex has another project area in the Surat Basin, the Project Atlas, west of Wandoan. The tenure was released by the Queensland Government for domestic gas supply only and fast tracked to Petroleum Lease status. Production was expected to commence during 2019.
Snapshot of CSG industry – by the numbers
Authorised tenure holder
Relevant tenure area (km2)
|CSG production area
(percentage of relevant tenure)