Explore Australia

Australia has one of the most resilient economies in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development  (OECD), with 25 consecutive years of economic growth. Australia is an attractive investment location with abundant energy resources for development and export, a stable business environment with active participation by some of the largest multinational companies in the world, close proximity to the major demand markets of Asia and access to a highly skilled workforce and innovative technologies.

There are no Australian government-owned resource companies and no requirement for government participation in resources projects. The Australian Government does not apply export controls to liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

With a stable regulatory framework, Australia possesses an internationalised currency, no foreign exchange controls, and a highly effective intellectual property rights regime.

With a Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of US$1.6 trillion, Australia is the 12th largest economy in the world and the 4th largest in the Asia region. Australia has enjoyed many years of uninterrupted economic growth, including during the global financial crisis of 2008. Since a brief recession in 1991, the Australian economy has experienced an average GDP growth of 3.3 per cent per annum. Its forecast economic growth rate between 2015 and 2019 is the highest among major advanced economies.

The Australian economy has continued to prove its resilience throughout the global financial crisis and beyond. Sound macroeconomic policies and structural reform during this time increased Australia’s responsiveness to shifts in the global economy and enabled Australia to better withstand global economic pressures to maintain strong economic fundamentals. Australia’s strong credit rating and impressive economic performance over the past decade has been the envy of many economies in the world. Australia remains one of only nine countries rated AAA with a stable outlook by three major international credit rating agencies, Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch.

In terms of real GDP, Australia’s economic growth in 2010-15 was 2.7 per cent and is forecast to reach three per cent in 2015-19. Recent economic data suggests that domestic production for key commodities will increase consistently over the next few years as Australia continues the transition from the construction phase to the production phase, with a corresponding robust growth in export volumes and export earnings. Australia’s economy will need to unlock alternative sources of growth in the years ahead, with new and emerging businesses playing a greater part.

Australia has been rated the fifth freest economy in the world by The Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation 2016 Index of Economic Freedom. The index tracks the progress of economic freedom around the globe and provides evidence of dynamic gains from greater economic freedom. From 186 economies, Australia ranks fifth behind Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand and Switzerland. The survey states that Australia continues to set the standard for clean, corruption-free government and benefits significantly from its transparent and efficient business environment and open-market policies.

Australia is building on its position in the Asia-Pacific region and has established a network of Free Trade Agreements (FTA) with key trading partners in the region. Australia has ten FTA currently in force with New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, US, Chile, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) (with New Zealand), Malaysia, Korea, Japan and China. The countries covered by these FTA account for 42 per cent of Australia's total trade. China accounts for 23 per cent of Australia’s total trade. Australia has concluded Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) negotiations. Australia is currently engaged in five other FTA negotiations - one bilateral FTA negotiation: India and Indonesia; and four plurilateral FTA negotiations the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), the Pacific Trade and Economic Agreement (PACER Plus), and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). The additional countries covered by these negotiations account for a further six per cent of Australia’s total trade.

General facts about Australia


13 590 000 square kilometre land area – including Australian Antarctic Territory of 5 900 000 square kilometres

Offshore marine jurisdiction

14 620 000 square kilometre marine area – including the Exclusive Economic Zone, Territorial Sea and Extended Continental Shelf


24.0 million

Official Language



Canberra - population 0.38 million

Main Cities

Sydney (4.9 million), Melbourne (4.5 million), Brisbane (2.3 million), Perth (2.0 million), Adelaide (1.3 million), Hobart (0.2 million), Darwin (0.1 million)

System of Government

Federation (Commonwealth) of:

  • Six states – New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia.

  • Three mainland territories – the Northern Territory, the Australian Capital Territory and the Jervis Bay Territory.

  • Seven external territories – Ashmore and Cartier Islands, Australian Antarctic Territory, Christmas Island, Cocos (Keeling) Islands, Coral Sea Islands Territory, Heard and McDonald Islands and Norfolk Island.

Parliamentary democracy based on Westminster system, Federal Parliament consisting of House of Representatives and Senate.

Key offshore petroleum statistics



2015-16 forecast

2016-17 projection

2017-18 projection

2018-19 projection

2019-20 projection

2020-21 projection

Crude and Condensate Export Volume (kb/d)








LPG Export Volume (kb/d)








Natural Gas Production (Bcm)








LNG Export Volume (kb/d)








Refined products (excludes LPG) Exports (kb/d)








Source: Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Resources and Energy Quarterly, March 2016

Why explore for oil and gas in Australia?

The probability of finding a new petroleum province in Australian waters remains high.

The first Australian exploration permit was granted in 1959 in the Gippsland Basin. As of July 2016, there are currently 166 offshore exploration permits, 76 retention leases and 92 production licences. From the first oil and gas discoveries in Bass Strait, the North West Shelf and the Timor Sea through to more recent discoveries in the Carnarvon and Browse basins, there is no doubt that offshore Australia is one of the world’s most highly prospective areas for petroleum.

Australia is a gas-rich nation. According to the Australian Energy Resources Assessment, around 92 per cent of Australia’s known conventional natural gas resources are located in the Carnarvon, Browse and Bonaparte basins off the north-west coast of Australia. Known gas resources are also located in south-west, south-east and central Australia, along with large coal seam gas resources in the coal basins of Queensland and New South Wales and the potential for shale and tight gas resources in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Despite this, much of the continent and its offshore areas remain underexplored, and in some areas unexplored, with over 40 onshore and offshore basins awaiting in-depth exploration to determine their full potential.

In 2008, the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLOS) confirmed the location of the outer limit of Australia’s continental shelf that resulted in the extension of Australia’s jurisdiction over an additional 2.56 million square kilometres of seabed. Australia has more than 14.62 million square kilometres of maximum seabed territory, which is one of the top three largest marine jurisdictions in the world along with the United States of America and France. Australia is now custodian to around four per cent of the world’s total seabed, an area with significant untapped exploration potential.

Australia's geographic location ensures it is well placed to meet the rapidly expanding energy needs of the
Asia-Pacific region. 

The strong consumption growth of oil in non-OECD markets provides the economic drivers for ongoing investment in exploration in Australia. Increased demand for energy with the industrialisation of China, India and other emerging Asian economies underpins these positive market conditions.

Some attributes that make Australia an attractive location for offshore oil and gas exploration include:

  • The regular release new exploration acreage covering a range of regions from frontier to mature.
  • Access to high geoscientific data and analysis at low or no cost.
  • Continued support of pre-competitive geoscientific exploration, data acquisition and analysis.
  • A free market philosophy which welcomes foreign investment – Australia has no mandatory local equity requirements and no government-owned petroleum companies.
  • Close proximity to in the growing economies of the Asia-Pacific.
  • An attractive policy and legal framework for oil and gas , conducive to investment by companies of all sizes.
  • Security of title with the right to retain and/or develop a discovery, subject to meeting the specified terms of a retention lease or a production licence.
  • Transparent and practical regulatory requirements covering all stages of petroleum operations.
  • Expanding physical infrastructure, sophisticated technical and services support, a educated workforce and pool of skilled petroleum professionals.
  • An competitive profit-based tax system,
  • Government assistance with project facilitation, including -tracking of approvals processes for declared major projects.
  • An open and competitive economy, including deregulated banking and foreign exchange arrangements, a sophisticated capital market and a good record of industrial harmony.

Australia – a resource rich nation with further growth potential

Australia has an enviable history in the successful development of its abundant natural resources and continues to be a premier destination for foreign investment. According to the Australian Government’s Office of the Chief Economist, Australia’s energy and mineral commodity resource export earnings are forecast to be $166 billion in 2015-16. The total volume of the nation’s producible natural gas reserves significantly outstrips the annual domestic consumption of about 1.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), establishing Australia as a global net gas exporter. Global LNG trade will grow rapidly to 2020 as Australia emerges as the world’s largest LNG exporter. New LNG projects will triple Australia’s export capacity and double total gas production.

Although Australia produces oil from five offshore basins (the Northern Carnarvon, Bonaparte and Perth basins offshore Western Australia and the Gippsland and Bass basins off south-eastern Australia), the nation needs to import about 60 per cent of its crude oil demand. Therefore, the Australian Government supports the industry’s exploration efforts by access to a wealth of open file data and by a transparent and efficient regulatory regime. 

Realising Australia’s petroleum potential

Offshore petroleum exploration

Many of Australia’s sedimentary basins remain largely underexplored and have the potential to host significant volumes of hydrocarbons. This potential has been grasped by companies with around $2.5 billion spent on private offshore petroleum exploration in Australia in 2014-15.

Only around 20 per cent of Australia’s offshore basins are currently covered by petroleum titles. Although exploration activity is primarily focused on finding resources close to existing discoveries to improve the economics of proposed projects, frontier exploration is growing. To encourage exploration in these areas and help reduce exploration uncertainties, the Australian Government has funded a series of precompetitive data acquisition programs that are carried out by Geoscience Australia, aimed at improving the understanding of the petroleum prospectivity and resource potential of frontier basins.

Offshore petroleum development

The Australian petroleum industry is entrepreneurial, innovative and has achieved significant success, demonstrated by the number of recent development projects that are now progressing to production – refer to table below. It is made up of a number of companies, many of whom operate on the international scene. Australia's modern legal framework, petroleum tenement system, effective taxation regime and economic environment explain Australia's consistent high ranking in international investment surveys.

Australia’s LNG development projects - as at June 2016

Name/ Type


Location/ Basin/Plant

Final Investment Decision (FID) and First Gas (FG)



In Operation

North West Shelf

Woodside (Op16.67%) Shell (16.67%)
BP (16.67%)
Chevron (16.67%)
BHP Billiton (16.67%) MIMI (16.67%)
CNOOC (gas and associated liquids 5.3%)



FG 1989

5 trains


Darwin LNG

ConocoPhillips (57.15%)
ENI Australia (10.99%)
Santos (11.39%)
INPEX (11.27%)
TEPCO & Tokyo Gas (aggregate 9.2%)



FG 2006

1 train

not available


Pluto LNG

Woodside (Op 90%)
Tokyo Gas (5%)
Kansai Electric (5%)

Carnarvon Karratha

FID 2007
FG  2012

1 train


Queensland Curtis LNG

Shell - formerly BG Group (Op, 50% T1, 97.5% T2)
CNOOC (50% in T1)
Tokyo Gas (2.5% in T2)

Bowen and Surat

FID Oct  2010
FG Jan 2015


2 trains

A$20.4b Shell - formerly BG Group

Gladstone LNG

Santos (Op, 30%), Petronas (27.5%)
Total (27.5%)
KOGAS (15%)

Bowen and Surat

FID Jan 2011
FG Oct 2015

2 trains

A$18.5b Santos 

Australia-Pacific LNG

Origin Energy (37.5%), ConocoPhillips (37.5%)
Sinopec (25%)

QLD Bowen and Surat

FID  T1 Jul 2011
        T2 Jul 2012

FG Jan 2016

2 trains

A$24.7b Origin


Chevron (Op 47.333%)
ExxonMobil (25%)
Shell (25%)
Osaka Gas (1.25%)
Tokyo Gas (1%)
Chubu (0.417%)

Barrow Is.

FID 2009
FG  Mar 2016

LNG: 15.6Mtpa,
3 trains

Dom gas: 150Tj/d to


In Construction

Prelude Floating LNG

Shell (Op 67.5%)
INPEX (17.5%)
KOGAS (10%)
OPIC (CPC Taiwan) (5%)


FID May 2011
FG 2017

1 train

US$12.6b estimate


Chevron (Op, 64.14%), Woodside (13%), KUFPEC (13.4%), Kyushu Electric (1.46%), PE Wheatstone (8%)


FID Sept 2011
FG 2017

LNG: 8.9Mtpa
2 trains
Dom gas: 200Tj/d



INPEX (Op, 62.245%)
Total (30%)
CPC Corporation Taiwan (2.625%)
Tokyo Gas (1.575%)
Osaka Gas (1.2%)
Kansai Electric Power (1.2%)
Chubu Electric (0.735%)
Toho Gas (0.42%)


FID Jan 2012
FG 2017

2 trains

$37.4b INPEX

In Planning

Equus LNG (going to NWSV for processing)

Hess (100%)


FID not yet taken


not available

Scarborough FLNG

Esso Australia (Op, 50%), BHP Billiton (50%)


FID not yet taken

na (10Tcf)

not available

LNG Condensate

Woodside (Op 33%)
ConocoPhillips (30%)
Shell (27%)
Osaka Gas (10%)



FID not yet taken

not available

not available



Woodside (Op 30%), Shell (27%), BP (17.33%), MIMI (14.4%), PetroChina (10.67%)


FID not yet taken

not available

not available

Australia’s domestic gas market

The Australian domestic gas industry has strong growth potential, paralleling growth in the industrial, minerals processing and electricity generation sectors.

In 2015-16, Australia is forecast to produce 83.6 billion cubic metres (bcm), an increase of 27 per cent year on year. Australia’s gas production is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 17 per cent in the five years to 2019-20, with gas production projected to more than double to 146.8 bcm.

Over the last 20 years, Australia’s domestic natural gas industry has grown from a relatively small base to being the third most significant domestic energy source after coal and oil. 

Domestic gas market reform over the past decade has increased transparency and competition in the sector, and brought industry regulation under the national energy framework, in line with electricity. Former Ministerial Council on Energy initiatives, such as the National Gas Law and National Gas Rules, National Gas Market Bulletin Board and the Short Term Trading Market for gas, have provided a framework for greater transparency and promoted the use of natural gas for domestic consumption across Australia. Recent initiatives of the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council, such as the establishment of a physical gas supply hub at Wallumbilla in Queensland and the commitment to establish another physical hub at Moomba in South Australia, provide new opportunities for wholesale gas trading and enhanced price discovery.

Significant investment in the expansion and integration of Australia’s domestic gas transmission and distribution network in recent years, particularly in south-eastern Australia, has facilitated growth in established gas markets, linked gas supplies with LNG facilities in Queensland and introduced gas into new regional centres. Major transmission pipelines in eastern Australia have been re-engineered for bidirectional flows, allowing gas flows to rapidly respond to changes in the supply–demand balance. This is enhancing basin-on-basin competition for the supply of gas that will be beneficial to gas consumers while also encouraging the development of new industries and increasing opportunities for suppliers to commercialise gas discoveries.

New offshore domestic gas projects are currently under development in Western Australia and in the Gippsland and Otway Basins off southern Victoria. In addition, there are a number of gas pipeline projects underway that will further integrate the pipeline network and enable gas from new upstream developments to be transported to domestic gas markets as appropriate. Significantly, in November 2015, Jemena was announced as the successful tenderer for the North East Gas Interconnector, now known as the Northern Gas Pipeline, to run from Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory to Mount Isa in Queensland. The pipeline will link the offshore northern Australia Bonaparte Basin and onshore Amadeus and Georgina basins with gas markets in southern and eastern Australia and is expected to be commissioned in 2018. On 4 December 2015, the Energy Council agreed to a Gas Supply Strategy, to ensure deeper collaboration between the Australian, state and territory governments on sharing science and improving regulation. The government is confident the new Gas Supply Strategy will encourage the development of onshore gas resources, supporting vibrant communities and competitive domestic and export industries.


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cat. 1345.0 – Key Economic Indicators, 2016

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Cat. 3218.0 - Regional Population Growth, Australia, 2014-15

Australian Trade Commission, 2015 Austrade Benchmark Report

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Free Trade Agreements, 1 May 2015

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Resources and Energy Quarterly, March 2016

Department of Industry, Innovation and Science, Australian Petroleum Statistics, Issue 234, January 2016

Geoscience Australia, Australian Energy Resources Assessment, Second Edition 2014

National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator, National Electronic Approval Tracking System

Wall Street Journal and The Heritage Foundation, 2016 Index of Economic Freedom