Australia's oil and gas sector has a bright future

Jan 15, 1997 01:00 AM

Jan. 2, 1997 Australia's oil and gas sector is poised to perform brightly this year, driven by a 1996 surge in exploration and corporate activity. The Australian Stock Exchange's Energy Index rose 49 % last year, underpinned by strong oil prices, compared with a rise of about 10 % in the broader All Ordinaries Index.
Exploration hotspots are expected to include the Timor Sea, Papua New Guinea and the Carnarvon Basin off Western Australia. The sector's two biggest companies Woodside Petroleum Ltd and Santos Ltd plan to drill key wells in the Timor Sea, while developing the region's Laminaria and Elang oil fields. In PNG, Oil Search Ltd will continue its exploration of the promising Moran oil field, and has received development licences for the Gobe oil field. The Carnarvon Basin will be a focus for both development and exploration. The energy sector should also be boosted by the improved prospect for gas projects following moves to deregulate the gas sector in Australia, a build-up of infrastructure and a switch to gas-fired power stations. Fresh take-over activity is expected, with Australian oil and gas companies seen as undervalued when compared with their international counterparts. Predators from the US and UK made successful bids in 1996 for Ampolex Ltd, Discovery Petroleum NL and Command Petroleum Holdings.

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