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Technology in Australia 1788-1988Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering
Table of Contents

Chapter 11

I The Present Energy Economy

II Australian Energy Consumption

III Research And Development

IV Coal

V Oil And Natural Gas
i Background to discovery
ii Discovery in Bass Strait
iii North West Shelf
iv Onshore
v Innovation and incidents

VI Solar Energy

VII Nuclear Energy

VIII Bagasse Firewood And Other Biomass

IX Electric Power Generation And Distribution electric Power Generation And Distribution

X Manufactured Gas

XI Industrial Process Heat



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A different type of problem arose in transporting crude from the Jackson field to Brisbane in the Moonie pipeline. This crude, under certain conditions of operation, could solidify. Professor David Boger, Chemical Engineering, University of Melbourne, working with the operators of the pipeline, was able to define an effective method of modifying the flow conditions with a pour-point depressant. This enabled ICI Australia to screen rapidly in their Research Laboratory a range of pour-point depressants to arrive at their RP39G, which is now being used in the pipeline. It was a good example of University-Industry collaboration to provide state of the art solutions to serious problems in the field.

Gas lift

This is a technique used to maintain or enhance oil recovery rates where reservoir pressure becomes too low for flow to be maintained, or where it is desired to increase the rate of production. Separated gas, which is generally associated with the oil, is pumped down the well casing and injected into the oil column at the bottom of the tubing or at various points along its length. The gas lifts the oil by a combination of fluid gradient reduction, expansion of gas, and displacement of oil. It is one of the simpler forms of enhanced oil recovery and was first introduced on Kingfish and later to a number of other fields. Most fields had enough naturally occurring gas to lift their oil but Halibut and Mackerel had none and Cobia and Fortescue insufficient, necessitating construction of the Marlin-Mackerel pipeline.

Water treatment

Water is always present in gas and increasingly in oil. It therefore must be separated to an acceptable quality before being discharged into the sea. After using gravity separators and Dissolved Gas Flotation with mixed success an Australian designed 'vortoil' was developed by BWN Vortoil Pty. Ltd. and Esso Australia engineers. It uses a powerful vortex to separate water and oil by centrifugal force.

In the Bass Strait and North West Shelf developments, there were some important engineering construction initiatives which are described in Chapter 6; these include (1) the Woodside North West Shelf Plough, (2) the Snapper post-trenching plough, (3) Mackerel and Tuna platform jacket design and construction, (4) the Cobia 2 sub-sea completion and (5) highly deviated wells.

By 1984 Bass Strait oil production had reached 455,000 barrels a day and in 1985 510,000 barrels. The record all-time daily production was 537,000 barrels in September 1985 and the Government for the first time allowed the Gippsland producers to export production in excess of 385,000 barrels a day.

The foregoing is in no sense a record of technology in the oil industry but rather an attempt to identify some of the innovative and unusual technology introduced during the development of the Bass Strait oil and gas fields and Western Australia's North West Shelf Natural Gas Project. These are two of the largest engineering construction projects ever undertaken in Australia.

Organisations in Australian Science at Work - BWN Vortoil Pty Ltd; Esso Australia; I.C.I. Australia Ltd

People in Bright Sparcs - Boger, Prof. David

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© 1988 Print Edition pages 801 - 802, Online Edition 2000
Published by Australian Science and Technology Heritage Centre, using the Web Academic Resource Publisher