Australia’s offshore industry is dominated by a league of formidable players, each contributing significantly to the nation’s economic prosperity.
Let’s delve into the intricacies of the top 10 offshore companies in Australia, with a spotlight on the leading quartet – ExxonMobil, Woodside, Chevron, and Santos.
The Australian Federal government has actively supported the offshore oil and gas industry, particularly during the LNG boom in the late 2000s, issuing 13 exploration titles in 2019 alone – the highest in the past decade.
Australia possesses offshore gas resources approximately three times larger than its remaining onshore resources on a global scale.
Interestingly, oil and gas companies have drilled twice as many production wells as exploration wells, possibly reflecting a preference for focusing on known resources rather than investing in risky exploration projects.
Australia’s offshore oil and gas industry began in 1965 when an ExxonMobil/BHP Billiton collaboration drilled the first offshore well, leading to the discovery of the Barracouta gas field in Bass Strait.
Despite the surge in onshore coal seam gas (CSG) exploration and production after the late 2000s LNG boom, offshore hydrocarbon deposits still outweigh onshore reserves significantly.
In Australian oil and gas joint ventures (JV), operators play a crucial role, holding the largest stake and assuming the highest level of responsibility and liability.
Examining the cumulative number of active permits over the history of offshore exploration indicates the prominent players in this sector.
Santos, Woodside Energy, ExxonMobil Australia, and Chevron Australia emerge as the key players, each managing more than 50 active permits as operators.
Santos leads the pack in Australia’s offshore exploration spending for the next six years, committing a total of AUD1.3 billion. Chevron follows with AUD 430 million, trailed by Shell at AUD 336 million. INPEX and BP round out the top five, both overseeing exploration projects exceeding AUD 220 million in expenditure.
Offshore Regulation in Australia
The Australian Government oversees a vast marine jurisdiction of over 10 million km², among the largest globally.
The regulation of oil and gas activities in Australian Commonwealth waters, situated beyond coastal waters and spanning approximately 3 to 200 nautical miles from shore, is governed by the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage Act 2006.
Additionally, the Act covers the regulation of greenhouse gas storage in these waters. Regulatory activities encompass permits, leases, and licenses (titles), environmental management, occupational health and safety, and well integrity.
For offshore oil and gas exploration and development to proceed, companies must adhere to various prerequisites within Australian Commonwealth waters.
Exploration and production activities require approval from the relevant Joint Authority and the independent regulator.
Typically, the Joint Authority comprises the responsible federal minister and the pertinent state or Northern Territory minister. The areas designated for exploration are determined annually through the acreage release process, overseen by the Joint Authorities.
Ensuring Maritime Boundaries – Environmental Protection Measures
Australia holds sovereign rights over an extensive oceanic area, encompassing its oil and gas resources. The Geoscience Australia website provides details on Australia’s marine jurisdiction and maps.
Following the Offshore Petroleum and Greenhouse Gas Storage (Environment) Regulations 2009;
- All oil and gas activities must undergo an environmental plan assessment and acceptance by NOPSEMA before commencement.
- Oil and gas companies are required to illustrate to NOPSEMA how they intend to manage the environmental impacts and risks of their activities, ensuring they are as low as reasonably practicable and at an acceptable level.
NOPSEMA’s website provides additional information, including guidelines for environmental plan decision-making, along with updates on environmental plans in various stages of review.
Top 10 Offshore Companies in Australia
- Woodside Australia
- Santos Ltd Australia
- Exxon Mobil
- Shell Australia
- BP Offshore Australia
- Japanese giants Mitsui
- Mitsubishi Australia Ltd
- INPEX Offshore
The leading companies deeply involved in Australia’s offshore sector include domestic giants Woodside, Santos, and BHP, alongside global players ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, BP, and Japanese corporations Mitsui, Mitsubishi, and INPEX.
Among them, ExxonMobil, Woodside, Chevron, and Santos stand out as the top four operators, collectively managing 222 of the 373 existing offshore permits.
ExxonMobil and Woodside primarily focus on the established sector, overseeing 51% of production and pipeline licenses.
In contrast, Chevron and Santos, newer players in the offshore scene, have concentrated on pre-production and exploration efforts, securing 41% of exploration permits and retention leases as operator partners.
Read on as we dive into these offshore companies in Australia one after the other:
Woodside Australia: Global Energy Company
Woodside Australia, a prominent global energy company with over 65 years of experience, holds a significant role in providing essential energy to heat homes, power lights, and support industries worldwide.
Woodside, a stalwart in the Australian offshore scene, has carved a niche in energy exploration and production.
With a strong focus on oil, gas, and new energy, the company aims to navigate the global energy transition successfully.
Woodside’s commitment to sustainable practices echoes through its operations, positioning it as a leader in the energy landscape.
The company’s commitment is evident through its substantial social spending, a dedicated workforce of over 4,000 employees, and a track record of delivering more than 6,400 LNG cargoes internationally since 1989.
- Visit the Website: https://www.woodside.com/
Santos Ltd Australia
Santos, a key contributor to Australia’s energy market, boasts an extensive portfolio in oil and gas exploration.
Santos Ltd, a key player in Australia’s energy sector, is dedicated to fueling the nation’s growth while embracing the global shift toward low-carbon fuels.
As a leading domestic gas and LNG supplier, Santos prioritizes providing essential fuels like oil and gas while actively addressing emissions through initiatives such as carbon capture and storage, renewable energy integration, and quality offsets.
With a 70-year legacy of collaboration with local communities, Santos focuses on job creation, business opportunities, and the safe development of natural gas resources to power industries and households.
The company aims to deliver sustained value to shareholders by managing a diverse portfolio of high-quality, long-life, and cost-effective oil and gas assets, alongside carbon storage resources and infrastructure.
Santos is a global energy company with operations across Australia, Papua New Guinea, Timor-Leste, and the United States.
- Visit the Website: https://www.santos.com/
BHP, traditionally a mining giant, has strategically diversified into offshore energy operations. With substantial investments in oil and gas, BHP plays a pivotal role in Australia’s energy transition, bringing its mining expertise to the dynamic realm of offshore resources.
With a global reach and sales managed from Singapore, BHP is committed to providing resources crucial for growth and decarbonization.
Their diverse product portfolio includes copper for renewable energy, nickel for electric vehicles, potash for sustainable farming, and iron ore and metallurgical coal for steel production supporting global infrastructure and the energy transition.
With a rich history dating back to 1885, BHP’s substantial workforce of around 80,000 operates in over 90 locations worldwide, contributing significantly to improving standards of living and fostering prosperity.
- Visit the Website: https://www.bhp.com/
Exxon Mobil, a global energy titan, holds a commanding position in Australia’s offshore sector. Leveraging its vast expertise and cutting-edge technologies, ExxonMobil is a driving force behind major offshore projects, contributing significantly to the nation’s energy security.
ExxonMobil Australia is a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Corporation. ExxonMobil is one of the largest publicly traded international oil and gas companies and holds an industry-leading inventory of resources.
Exxon Mobil Corporation is the world’s premier petroleum and petrochemical company with a presence in most of the world’s countries.
ExxonMobil is committed to being the world’s premier petroleum and chemical manufacturing company. To that end, they continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to high ethical standards.
Mobil is committed to maintaining a reliable supply of fuel to our customers across Australia.
- Visit the Website: https://www.exxonmobil.com.au/
Chevron, with a strong presence in the Gorgon and Wheatstone LNG projects, is at the forefront of Australia’s energy landscape. The company’s commitment to innovation and sustainability underscores its role in shaping the future of energy production in the region.
For the past 70 years, Chevron Australia has been a key player in providing oil, natural gas, and various products to drive human progress.
While prioritizing the growth of its traditional energy business, and acknowledging its significant greenhouse gas emissions, Chevron is actively working to decrease the carbon emissions intensity of its traditional operations.
Simultaneously, the company is dedicated to expanding lower carbon businesses to contribute to a more sustainable future, all while ensuring the continuous supply of reliable and affordable energy.
Chevron leads a substantial $80+ billion investment in major natural gas projects like Gorgon and Wheatstone, marking the largest single investment by a company in Australia’s history.
These endeavors contribute to lasting benefits for the nation’s economic landscape and reinforce Australia’s role as a prominent global natural gas supplier.
- Visit the Website: http://australia.chevron.com/
Shell’s footprint in Australia extends beyond its global presence. With a focus on LNG and renewable energy, Shell is actively involved in reshaping the nation’s energy sector, aligning its operations with the evolving needs of the industry and the environment.
Shell businesses in Australia are part of the Shell Group, a global group of energy and petrochemical companies.
Shell has been a prominent presence in Australia since 1901, engaging in key activities such as operating the country’s first oil refinery and contributing to major national developments.
Over 122 years, Shell has adapted its portfolio to align with evolving customer needs and national priorities. Presently, Shell is a leading natural gas producer and actively participates in the shift towards a low-carbon future.
This commitment involves investments in the power sector, renewable energy sources, and carbon abatement initiatives.
As part of a global energy and petrochemical group, Shell employs advanced technologies and innovative strategies to contribute to a sustainable energy future.
In Australia, Shell’s significant Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) business plays a crucial role in the current energy supply. Furthermore, Shell’s Australian portfolio extends to encompass zero- and low-carbon energy ventures, including commercial and industrial retail activities.
- Visit the Website: https://www.shell.com.au/
BP Offshore Australia
BP, a global energy major, is navigating the energy transition in Australia. With investments in renewable energy and a commitment to reducing carbon emissions, BP is playing a pivotal role in driving sustainable practices in the offshore sector.
BP has a rich history in Australia dating back to 1919, with a contemporary focus on exploration in the Carnarvon basin offshore Western Australia.
Active in major LNG developments like the North West Shelf joint venture since the 1970s, BP aims to play a vital role in meeting regional energy demands with reduced emissions.
As part of the global BP group, the Australian arm collaborates to share expertise, research, and development.
Employing approximately 5,200 individuals across the country, BP operates in every Australian state and territory, maintaining main offices in Perth and Melbourne.
The company’s exploration efforts are concentrated on the North Carnarvon basin.
Transitioning from an international oil company, BP is strategically evolving into an integrated energy company, emphasizing a commitment to a lower carbon future and acknowledging the urgency of collective efforts to achieve global climate goals.
- Visit the Website:https://www.bp.com/en_au/australia/home/who-we-are/exploring.html
Mitsui, a prominent Japanese conglomerate, has established a strong presence in Australia’s offshore ventures through strategic partnerships.
Its diversified portfolio spans various industries, including energy, making Mitsui a key player in the collaborative landscape of offshore operations.
Mitsui E&P Australia (MEPAU), a subsidiary of Mitsui & Co., Ltd., has been actively engaged in Australia for over 20 years, playing a vital role in the development of a sustainable energy supply for the nation.
Positioned as a WA-based energy provider, MEPAU operates the Waitsia Gas Field with two gas-producing facilities in the Midwest.
Committed to driving growth in energy investments, MEPAU aspires to be a leader in cleaner energy solutions, emphasizing operational excellence, safety performance, and a dedication to the communities it serves.
With a vision for a responsible, reliable, and sustainable energy supply, MEPAU actively contributes to the energy transition by maintaining a well-balanced resource portfolio and exploring opportunities in low-carbon energy and carbon abatement.
- Visit the Website: https://www.mepau.com.au/
Mitsubishi Australia Ltd
Mitsubishi, another heavyweight from Japan, has a significant stake in Australia’s offshore endeavors. Renowned for its technological prowess and global reach, Mitsubishi’s contributions to the nation’s energy sector are substantial and diverse.
Mitsubishi Australia Ltd (MIMI), a 50-50 joint venture established in 1985 between Mitsubishi Corporation (MC) and Mitsui & Co., Ltd., has been a major player in the Australian natural gas industry for over 35 years.
With MC’s substantial history of investment in LNG projects, including the North West Shelf and Wheatstone projects currently operational, and the Browse project under development, MIMI actively engages with related businesses, government organizations, and key players in the oil and gas sector in Australia.
Holding equity interests in significant ventures, such as the North West Shelf Venture and the Browse Joint Venture, MIMI plays a pivotal role in the commercial development of offshore resources, contributing to Australia’s position as a major LNG producer.
- Visit the Website:https://www.mitsubishicorp.com/au/en/bg/natural-gas/
INPEX, a major player in the LNG sector, has been a driving force in Australia’s offshore energy landscape. With a commitment to innovation and sustainability, INPEX continues to make significant strides in meeting the nation’s growing energy needs.
INPEX, a prominent player in Australia’s energy landscape since 1986, is Japan’s largest petroleum and exploration company, with a global presence in the production of clean and reliable natural gas.
Their flagship project, Ichthys LNG in Western Australia’s Browse Basin, is a major contributor to economic and social benefits in Australia and ensures long-term energy security for Japan.
With interests in various basins and projects like Prelude FLNG, Van Gogh, Coniston, and Bayu-Undan/Darwin LNG, INPEX strives to fulfill its mission of delivering sustainable energy globally.
The Ichthys Field, operational since 2018, showcases its commitment to safety and engineering excellence in a project expected to supply a significant portion of Japan’s LNG needs for the next four decades.
- Visit the Website: https://www.inpex.com.au/
Australia’s offshore industry thrives on the expertise, innovation, and commitment of these top 10 companies. As the nation undergoes a transformative journey in energy production, these key players, particularly ExxonMobil, Woodside, Chevron, and Santos, are at the helm, steering the sector toward a sustainable and prosperous future.