Release Areas W09-6, W09-7 and W09-8, Northern Exmouth Plateau, Carnarvon Basin, Western Australia
Release Areas W09-6, W09-7 and W09-8 are three large deepwater areas located on the northern Exmouth Plateau. The Exmouth Plateau is the deepwater frontier of the Carnarvon Basin, Australia's premier hydrocarbon province. Home to several giant gas accumulations (Jansz, Scarborough, Thebe), the Exmouth Plateau (Figure 1 [PDF, 750KB]) is an area of active exploration with three (Briseis 1, Glencoe 1 and Nimblefoot 1) out of the six deepwater exploration wells (Bellatrix 1, Briseis 1, Glencoe 1, Ixion 1, Nimblefoot 1 and Warrior 1) drilled in 2008 being significant gas discoveries. At the time of writing another deepwater gas discovery, Martell 1 was made in WA-404-P.
Release Area W09-6 is the most westerly of the Release Areas and is located some 400 km from the Western Australian coastline. Water depths range between 2000 m and 3000 m shallowing to less than 2000 m in the northwest quadrant where the bathymetric high of the Wombat Plateau extends into the Release Area (Figure 1 [PDF, 750KB]). No wells have been drilled in Release Area W09-6 which comprises 93 graticular blocks with a total area of approximately 7525 km2.
Release Area W09-7 is the largest of the three Release Areas on offer on the northern Exmouth Plateau. It comprises 110 graticular blocks with a total area of approximately 9000 km2. Water depths are in the range of 2000 m to 3500 m with shallower depths across its northern half and the Montebello Canyon occupying the southern half (Figure 1 [PDF, 750KB]). Release Area W09-7 is located about 370 km from the Western Australian coastline. The Ocean Drilling Program (Haq et al, 1990) drilled 4 stratigraphic holes (ODP 759, 760, 761 and 764) in Release Area W09-7 in 1988 and intersected a Late Triassic carbonate reefal facies overlying Norian coal measures (Figure 2 [PDF, 171KB]).
Release Area W09-8 is the more inboard of the three Release Areas but is in the deepest water. It is some 340 km to the north of the Western Australian coastline and 230 km from the Rankin Trend pipeline network that links the gas fields to the export LNG processing plant onshore (Figure 1 [PDF, 750KB]). The Montebello Canyon occupies the northern half of Release Area W09-8 and water depths range from approximately 2500 m to 4000 m. No wells have been drilled in Release Area W09-8 which comprises 94 graticular blocks with total area of approximately 7690 km2.
In 2008 Australia's submission for jurisdiction over an additional 2.5 million km2 of seabed was confirmed by the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf. The Commission confirmed the location of the outer limit of Australia's continental shelf in 9 distinct marine regions, including the Exmouth Plateau, offshore Western Australia (Geoscience Australia , 2008). Parts of Release Areas W09-6 and W09-7 are located within this newly confirmed region of Australian marine jurisdiction.
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