(EnergyAsia, December 24 2012, Monday) — Boosted by its surging natural gas output, Australia produced a record 143.2 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) in the latest September quarter, according to Adelaide-based EnergyQuest.

Australia’s natural gas production reached a record 611 petajoules (PJ) in the July-September period, surpassing the previous high of 547 PJ in the third quarter of 2010.

Thanks to the start-up of Woodside’s Pluto project and increased supply from the North West Shelf and Darwin, the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) production was up 33% from the 2011 September quarter, with all projects operating at close to capacity.

There was also strong growth in domestic gas production, reflecting a 24% increase in production by the ExxonMobil/BHP Billiton joint venture from Longford in Victoria, said Energy Quest.

“The carbon tax was one of the key drivers of higher domestic gas production on the back of a 12% surge in east coast gas-fired power generation,” said EnergyQuest chief executive, Graeme Bethune.

“The increase in gas production was despite a 3.3 per cent drop in demand for electricity on Australia’s east coast,” he said.

“Asia continues to be the brightest spot in global gas demand, with consumption continuing to grow strongly.

“Demand is growing moderately in the US, but is still falling in Europe.

`“European demand is now at 2003 levels and the International Energy Agency believes it might take until 2020 for European gas demand to return to 2010 levels.”

LNG imports by the UK were down 44% in the nine months to September 2012, compared with the same period last year.

Dr Bethune said weak economies, renewables and cheap coal imported from the US were marginalising gas in Europe.

Australian production of oil and natural gas liquids (condensate and LPG) was essentially flat – quarter-on-quarter – at 41.1 mmboe.