History of Oil and Gas in Western Australia

Since oil and natural gas were first discovered in Western Australia, extensive exploration, development and production has led to the State’s success within the global petroleum industry.

In 2019, Western Australia’s petroleum sector was valued at $39.5 billion. As Australia’s premier oil and gas producer today, Western Australia’s participation in the industry enables economic and community development within the region, local and global job opportunities for Australian’s and a robust position in the global market.

Behind the local industry’s success is an extensive history. We’ve outlined some of the key milestones for oil and natural gas development in Western Australia.

Western Australia's oil and gas history

Early 1900's

Initial exploration drilling for oil in Western Australia at Warren River in the southwest of the State. Drilling yielded little success.

1946

Australian Motorists Petrol Company (AMPOL) carried out first formal exploration in WA.
The Bureau of Mineral Resources initiated survey work for the Australian Government.

1947

The first petroleum exploration lease in the Exmouth region of the Carnarvon Basin granted to AMPOL.

1953

WAPET discovered oil at Rough Range-1 in the Carnarvon Basin. This was the first well in Australia to flow oil at the surface and stimulated further onshore exploration and investment in the region.

1961

First offshore exploration for oil and gas off the Exmouth Gulf using seismic surveys conducted by WAPET.

1964

First commercial quantities of oil discovered at Barrow Island in the Northern Carnarvon Basin. Quantities were bought into production by WAPET in 1967.

1966

WAPET discovered commercial quantities of natural gas in the Dongara gas field in the Perth Basin.

1971

Woodside discovers major gasfield, the North West Shelf, in the northern Carnarvon Basin.

This included discoveries at Rankin, Angel and in Goodwyn gas fields.

1977

WA State Government approved the development of the North Rankin gas field, guaranteeing domestic consumption of natural gas from the project.

1980 - 1990

A number of oil discoveries resulted from drilling wells in the Canning Basin: Blina, Sundown, West Terrace and Boundary oilfields; Carnarvon Basin: South Pepper (1982); North Herald (1983), Harriet (1983), Chervil (1983); Outtrim (1984); Saladin (1985); and Perth Basin.

1980 - 1990

Discovery of numerous onshore gasfields in the Perth Basin: Woodada gasfield (producing for 28 years from 1982) and the Beharra Springs gasfield, which commenced production in 1991.

1995

Construction of the Pilbara Energy Pipeline (216km), transporting gas from the Burrup Extension Pipeline to Port Hedland.

1996

Construction of the Goldfields Gas Pipeline (GGP), WA’s second longest pipeline, was completed.
The pipeline transports gas from the Carnarvon Basin and Northwest Shelf producers to mining customers in the Pilbara, Murchison and Goldfields mining regions for industrial use and power generation.

1999

Construction of the Mid West Pipeline (352km) was completed, transporting gas from the Dampier to Bunbury Pipeline to power generators in the Windimurra and Mt Magnet region.

2000

State government support a $2.4 billion expansion of Western Australia’s North West Shelf gas project, including a fourth LNG train on Burrup Peninsula and a second offshore gas pipeline, Western Australia.

Ongoing onshore and offshore gas exploration and discovery across the state. Exploration of tight gas and shale gas continue.

2018

Discovery of Dorado-1 offshore well by Quadrant Energy, on the North West Shelf. Dorado-1 is said to be one of the largest ever oil discoveries in Australia’s North Western Shelf.

2019

WA Premier announced $10 million to support a WA LNG Futures Facility, positioning WA as a global leader in the development and testing of new technologies and processes and maximise local jobs.

2019

Hydraulic fracturing moratorium on existing petroleum projects in WA was lifted in September 2019, after being introduced at the end of 2018. Hydraulic Fracturing is currently limited to 2% of WA, with all new exploration and production projects assessed under new regulatory requirements.

More about oil and gas in Western Australia

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