Australia’s science agency, CSIRO, said it played a key role in helping Canadian oil company InterOil find new oil fields in Papua New Guinea.

A team of ten CSIRO petroleum division researchers helped in a vigorous exploration programme with InterOil.

In July, the company announced finding 14 oil shows through 135 meters of cored Tertiary limestones in the Moose-1 ST1 well, located 350km northwest of Port Moresby. The company plans to undertake additional testing, production and development drilling to determine the structure’s resource potential. Commercial confirmation would result in the first significant hydrocarbon discovery in the area in 44 years.

Recognising the geological and geochemical complexity of the PNG province, the company sought to capitalise on CSIRO’s specialist technologies and expertise in the Papuan Basin.

Andy Carroll, InterOil’s general manager of exploration and production, said: “CSIRO has provided us with key technical expertise across several functions.”

The application of high resolution strontium isotopic age dating to limestones and other marine fossils allowed CSIRO and InterOil geoscientists to build an accurate ‘stratigraphic yardstick’. This enabled accurate prediction of subsurface structure ‘ahead of the bit’ during the forthcoming multi-well drilling programme.

CSIRO said it is independently evaluating reservoir data like porosity and permeability, and geochemically typing hydrocarbons. InterOil is using these data in estimating potential predrill reservoir sizes and hydrocarbon volumetrics.

CSIRO researchers have been studying InterOil’s prospects, covering the area northwest from Port Moresby into the Papuan foothills and highlands north of the Gulf of Papua, examining reservoir quality and sedimentology, organic geochemistry and petrology, geochronology and regional basin history. The work has included detailed laboratory analysis and field studies.

CSIRO project coordinator Tony Allan said: “This work builds on 10 years of CSIRO research in Papua New Guinea. It is providing unique insights into petroleum system evolution throughout the Papuan Basin, with a direct impact on models driving current exploration in this region.

“Our InterOil work is also relevant to petroleum systems analysis across the northwest Australian margin, and to the continuing development of CSIRO exploration and appraisal technologies.”

The new chief of the division, Beverley Ronalds, is encouraging further development of the CSIRO-InterOil science alliance.

“CSIRO’s role in exploration-related research is not only about developing new technologies but ensuring they are applied and are making a difference in the industry. I am delighted that our research partnership with InterOil is delivering on both” Professor Ronalds said.