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    BHP Billiton, Apache find oil
Angela Macdonald-Smith
2004-07-15 06:58

BHP Billiton, Australia's largest oil and gas company, has found oil at its Ravensworth-2 appraisal well off the coast of Western Australia, said Apache Corp, a partner in the permit.

The well, located 2 kilometres northeast of the Ravensworth-1 discovery well drilled last year, found oil over a depth of 29.5 metres, including an 11.2 metres net oil column, Houston-based Apache said in a statement distributed on Tuesday by PRNewswire. The well lies in 207 metres of water, 45 kilometres north of the town of Exmouth on the Western Australia coast, it said.

Since last July, BHP Billiton and Apache have discovered oil at three exploration wells in the Exmouth Basin area, including the Stickle-1 discovery in May. They plan to drill an appraisal well at Stickle this quarter and may drill more wells later in the year, Apache said. BHP Billiton, the operator, owns 71.4 per cent of Ravensworth-2, Apache owns 28.6 per cent.

"You might find that this is a nice oil field," said Gordon Ramsay, oil and gas analyst at UBS AG in Melbourne.

"You can expect 50 to 150 million-barrel oil fields in this area."

Shares in BHP Billiton fell 11 cents or 0.9 per cent, to A$12.69 (US$9) as of 2:19 pm Sydney time yesterday, in line with a decline in the market. The S&P/ASX 200 index shed 1 per cent, its biggest drop in 10 weeks.

The result of Ravensworth-2 is "good news, because it extends the area of the field considerably farther north than we had it mapped based on the Ravensworth-1 discovery well," Eve Howell, Apache's regional vice-president for Australia, said in the statement.

Several oil production projects could be developed in the Exmouth Basin, which also contains BHP Billiton's Stybarrow and Eskdale discoveries and Woodside Petroleum Ltd's Enfield and Laverda fields, UBS's Ramsay said. Perth-based Woodside in March approved development of the A$1.48 billion (US$1.1 billion) Enfield project.

"I think there's the potential for a number of production hubs in the Exmouth area," Ramsay said. "It's encouraging for the area being an important producer down the road."

On Tuesday, Woodside said the BHP Billion-operated Knott-1 exploration well in the same area failed to find oil or gas.

(China Daily 07/15/2004 page12)


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