Gas - Australian overview

From the 1800s to the 1950s Australia’s known oil and gas reserves were minor and barely of commercial quantities.

Australia's first oil field was discovered at Lake Bunga near Lakes Entrance in the Gippsland Basin in 1924 and oil was produced from the Lakes Entrance oil field between 1930 and 1951.

The 1960’s was the decade in which the petroleum industry took off in Australia. Major discoveries of (conventional) oil and natural gas were made in the Gippsland Basin, the Cooper Basin in South Australia, the Surat Basin in Queensland (in the same area that current coal seam gas operations are taking place, but deeper), the Amadeus Basin near Alice Springs and Barrow Island off Western Australia.

Natural gas was delivered to Melbourne from 1969, rapidly replacing local town gas supplies and oil heating. Reticulated natural gas also spread to regional towns from the late 1990’s and there is now a network of natural gas pipelines around Victoria and interstate, linking areas right through eastern Australia.

The first liquid natural gas export facility began operation at Karratha in 1989.  There are now four export facilities at Karratha and Darwin, with another four major projects at various stages.

Pipelines and major producing areas in Australia

Select the map to open a larger view
Map of Pipelines and major producing areas in eastern australia
Source: Geoscience Australia - © Commonwealth of Australia (Geoscience Australia) 2014.
This product is released under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Australia Licence.

Coal seam gas development

Coal seam gas has long been recognised to be produced mainly from black coal, as is the case in Queensland, where the first exploration well was drilled in 1976.

In the 1980s there were experimental trials of coal seam gas at the Moura coal mine in the Bowen Basin, but the first stand-alone development was at the Dawson field near Moura in 1996, with gas piped to Gladstone and Rockhampton.

Construction of three natural gas facilities (British Gas, Santos and Origin Energy-led groups) began at Gladstone in 2012 and exporting is expected to start in 2015.

In Victoria, the Latrobe Valley contains vast quantities of brown coal, but its coal seam gas potential has yet to be tested. While there is a small amount of black coal in the Wonthaggi area, it is not believed to be extensive enough to produce commercial quantities of this type of gas.

Onshore Gas Industry Regulation

Other than Victoria, where coal seam gas - which is legally a mineral - is regulated under the Minerals Resources (Sustainable Development) Act 1990, it is primarily regulated under the relevant State Petroleum Act. A plethora of other State and Commonwealth legislation also applies to manage risks.

Relevant Commonwealth legislation includes the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Act 1999 and the Native Title Act 1993. States have also agreed to refer coal seam gas projects to the Independent Expert Scientific Committee, which provides advice on the water-related impacts of coal seam gas proposals, among other things.

Learn more about the Victoria’s minerals and petroleum exploration and development regulations.

For more information about Queensland’s regulations visit:

For more information about New South Wales’ regulations visit: