Bass Strait

In 1965 an Esso/BHP Billiton joint venture drilled Australia's first offshore well and discovered the Barracouta gas field in Bass Strait.

Article

Bass Strait

Two years later Kingfish was discovered, the first offshore oil field, which to this day remains the largest oil field ever discovered in Australia.

These, and other subsequent world-class discoveries in Bass Strait, off Victoria's Gippsland coast, have led to significant changes to Australia's industry and economy.

Massive infrastructure costing billions of dollars has been built to develop, produce and process the crude oil and gas, which is used to power industry, fuel vehicles, heat homes and manufacture products in Australia and overseas.

There are now 23 offshore platforms and installations in Bass Strait, including the new Marlin B platform and Kipper subsea wells, which feed a network of 600km of underwater pipelines and keep the oil and gas flowing, 24 hours a day.

To date, more than four billion barrels of crude oil and around eight trillion cubic feet of gas have been produced. And our future remains bright - with Bass Strait continuing to supply vital energy to Australians for more decades to come.

 

Living and working offshore

Up to 300 ExxonMobil personnel and contractors are living and working offshore at any one time. Platforms operate 24 hours a day and crews typically work 12 hour shifts on a seven-days-on and seven-days-off roster.

The biggest platforms are capable of sleeping up to 80 people at any one time although the actual number of personnel on a platform varies considerably depending on the platform's current work program.

An effort is made to provide as many home comforts as possible. The platforms have gymnasiums and recreational rooms where off-duty personnel can workout, watch television, play pool or computer games. There are also fully equipped kitchens which provide thousands of meals each year.

Reflecting the international nature of the oil and gas industry the platforms usually comprise a mix of personnel from all over the world. At any one time it would not be unusual for more than a dozen nationalities to be represented in Bass Strait.

Platform crews are typically made up of a supervisor, who oversees all work undertaken on the platform; operators, who control the crude oil and gas flow to the surface and monitor the processing facilities on each platform; maintenance personnel, who look after electrical, mechanical and instrumentation equipment; crane drivers; trades assistants; and platform services operators who also carry out first aid duties as required. Contractors do most of the other specialised jobs like drilling, construction, diving, painting and catering."

Helicopters are one of the crucial lifelines that support the oil and gas operations in Bass Strait. ExxonMobil operates Australia's largest privately owned helicopter fleet from its heliport at Longford near Sale, 220 kilometres east of Melbourne.

Leonardo AW139 helicopters operate regular morning and afternoon flights to ferry personnel to and from the platforms which are between 25 and 80 kilometres offshore.

The helicopters are capable of seating up to 12 people. They also carry more than 20 tonnes of urgent freight and critical spares per month.

In addition, two supply ships operate out of ExxonMobil's Barry Beach Marine Terminal near Port Welshpool.

The ships operate 24 hours a day and move between platforms loading and unloading cargo. They have a crew of 11 and are equipped with specialised navigational equipment and propulsion systems which allow them to operate close to the offshore platforms.

Around 50 percent of the cargo delivered to the platforms is bulk products essential for drilling and oil and gas production - diesel, water, glycol, barites and cement. These are carried in below deck tanks. The balance of cargo is food and machinery which is transported on deck packed in specially designed containers.

Barry Beach Marine Terminal

The Barry Beach Marine Terminal is the main supply depot for our Bass Strait oil and gas operations.

Each year it facilitates the warehousing and transport of thousands of tonnes of food, supplies, fuel and equipment to 23 offshore platforms and installations that serve as bases for drilling, oil and gas production and processing.

Normally operating five days a week, the Marine Terminal is also a critical lifeline for the 300 personnel and contractors who live and work on the offshore platforms. Located near Port Welshpool in South Gippsland, Barry Beach Marine Terminal is 240 km south east of Melbourne.

The 400-metre Barry Beach wharf accommodates a 110-tonne pedestal crane to lift the cargo to and from supply vessels. These contracted vessels are based at Barry Beach Marine Terminal and operate up to 24 hours a day to service 23 offshore platforms and installations. The vessels are able to operate close to the offshore platforms and move between platforms loading and unloading cargo, even in the stormy conditions of Bass Strait, with the aid of specialised navigational equipment and propulsion systems.

Around half of their cargo is the bulk product essential for drilling and oil and gas production: diesel, water, glycol, barites and cement. These are carried in below-deck tanks. The balance of their cargo is food, machinery and general cargo needed to support and maintain the offshore personnel, platforms and installations. This cargo is generally transported on-deck packed in specially designed containers.

Every year, around 70,000 tonnes of cargo is shipped to the Bass Strait platforms from Barry Beach.

Esso has awarded a contract to Qube Energy, a part of Qube Holdings, to operate Barry Beach Marine Terminal on its behalf. Qube commenced operations in November 2017.

Related content

Longford Plants

Longford, with its three gas plants and one crude oil stabilisation plant, is one of the most important industrial facilities in Australia.

Upstream Article

Gorgon project

The project is developing the Gorgon and Jansz-Io fields, located between 130 and 200 kilometres off the northwestern coast of Western Australia.

Upstream Article

Kipper Tuna Turrum (KTT)

The Kipper Tuna Turrum Project is the largest domestic gas development on the eastern seaboard.

Upstream Article

Natural gas - the cleaner energy option

Natural gas will play an increasingly important role in meeting the world's growing demand for energy.

Upstream Article

Offshore projects

Esso Australia, a subsidiary of ExxonMobil Australia, is planning on undertaking a program of work across some of its offshore assets, including those owned jointly by the Gippsland Basin Joint Venture, in 2018 and 2019. This program forms part of Esso’s ongoing investment in exploring domestic gas development opportunities to ensure that we can continue to meet Australia’s energy needs.

Upstream Article

Long Island Point

Opened in 1970, the Long Island Point plant, situated near Hastings, 75 kilometres south-east of Melbourne, plays a vital role in the Bass Strait production line.

Upstream Article