b'Seismic window Seismic windowOver the next 15 years until 1939 morewas extracted from the sample led several than 40 wells were drilled, but they hadcompanies to take up leases and begin poor flow rates, mostly less than one barrelexploring, but no oil was found. Eventually a day. Total production to 1938 was 483 400the coorongite was discovered to be a L (about 3050 barrels) from an estimatedform of algae that became rubbery as total oil in place of 680 million L (~4.25it dried. But Australias first oil rush had million barrels). This low recovery factorstarted, and leases were taken out across led to several experts being consulted,South Australia. Even so it took nearly 100 and resulted in the Lakes Entrance oil fieldyears before the large gas fields of the being developed by drilling horizontalCooper Basin were discovered in 1963.bore holes from the bottom of a vertical shaft, and collecting the oil in buckets as itFirst offshore exploration welltrickled out of the reservoir. The first offshore well in Australia, and Michael Micenkopossibly the world, was drilled as part of Associate Editor for Petroleum First Australian produced oila campaign in Princess Royal Harbour mick@freogeos.com.au The first Australian produced oil wasnear Albany in Western Australia in 1906 sold in Sydney in 1886. In this project(Poynton, 2019). Although the area is Where was Australias first oil well? kerosene was produced by distillationnot considered prospective by todays of oil shales in the Blue Mountains.standards, there were positive indications Last year I had quick look at some of theIt continued for 30 years until it wassuch as oily bubbles observed in the most significant discoveries in the historydisplaced by imported oil. sediments recovered during dredging of the Australian petroleum industry. Butof the Harbour. A consortium was put where was the first? I found there is noFirst commercial oil field together by Mr Charles Watkins, a mining clear first oil well but rather a number ofThere are a couple of contenders for thisengineer, and Australias first offshore firsts with various qualifying descriptorstitle, depending on who you askthey arelease was granted in 1906.and, in a couple of cases, two claimants forMoonie and Rough Range (both featuredBorehole 1 of the campaign utilised an the same title. In compiling this list of firstin Preview August 2022). Rough Range-1abandoned hulk as a drilling platform, oil wells I found many were unexpected,discovered oil in 1953, eight years beforebut subsequent wells were drilled from but what surprised me most was the largeMoonie, but was not as prolific. a purpose-built pontoon. Boreholes 1 geographic spread of exploration veryand 2 found an oily substance between early in the life of the colonies (Figure 1). First oil exploration well5 and 10 m below the seafloor, before First substantial oil discoveryAustralias first exploration well was drilledintersecting granite at about 12 m, in the Coorong area of South Australia inBoreholes 3 and 4 found traces of oil in Lake Bunga No. 1, drilled in the1892 (http://sahistorians.org.au). It faileda dark sand and Boreholes 5 and 6 had Gippsland Basin in 1924, is consideredto encounter hydrocarbons even thoughlittle encouragement.to be Australias first oil discovery, withit was drilled to follow up large strandings traces of oil observed in artesian waterof coorongite found on the beach nearThe Government Geologist visited the flowing from a glauconitic sandstone atSalt Creek. Coorongite is an oily, bitumen- operation and wrote a scathing report 326 m (note: this well was drilled longlike material and in 1866 about a tonconcluding there was nothing to indicate before fracking came into use. The oil wasof the material was sent to Scotland forthe presence of mineral oil and described naturally occurring within the aquifer). analysis. The report that 545 L (3-4 barrels)the consortiums views as blockhead optimism.Another first offshore exploration wellThe EssoBHP joint venture drilled the Barracouta-1 well in the offshore Gippsland Basin in 1965 and it is regarded as the first offshore well in Australia. The well discovered the Barracouta Gas Field.ReferencePoynton, D., 2019. The forgotten story of Australias first offshore wells - Princess Royal Harbour, Albany 1906. In Keep, M., and Moss S.J., eds 2019. The sedimentary basins of Western Australia V., Proceedings of the Figure 1.Location of the many contenders for Australias first oil exploration well. The petroleum industryPetroleum Exploration Society Australia was established very early in Australias history with widespread exploration efforts. Symposium, Perth, WA 2019. 16pp45 PREVIEW FEBRUARY 2023'