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The foresight of a steelmaker, the expertise of an oil explorer and the education hunch of a geologist .... this was the combination of talents that lead to the discovery of Australia's major oil reserves in Bass Strait.
At the invitation of BHP the renowned American geologist Lewis G Weeks visited Australia in 1960 and suggested that the most likely place oil would be found would be off the coast of Victoria.
In 1961 an extensive aerial magnetometer survey was carried out in Bass Strait and the encouraging results led BHP to conduct a marine seismic survey of 5530 kilometre in the Gippsland Basin in 1962/63. many attractive structures were defined.
The first contact between BHP and Standard Oil Company (New Jersy), as Esso's parent company was then known, was in early 1962 when a small team visiting Australia to determine the country's oil exploration potential offered advice on the design of the BHP seismic survey.
On February 14, 1964 Esso Exploration Australia entered into an agreement with BHP subsidiary Haematite Exploration to explore for oil and gas in the hostile waters of Bass Strait. Just one year later, with Esso as operator, the major Barracouta gas field was discovered and in 1967 oil was found in the huge Kingfish and Halibut fields. These discoveries transformed Australia's oil supply situation from one of almost complete dependence on imports to one of substantial self-sufficiency.
For more than 25 years Bass Strait has been Australia's premier oil and gas production area, supplying the nation with more than three billion barrels of oil and over three trillion cubic feet of gas.
The Bass Strait oil and gas production story is a tribute to the ingenuity and perseverance of people determined not to be beaten by one of the harshest environments in the world.