The Oil Industry Off Western Australia

WWF-Australia has recently released an excellent report on the Coastal and Marine Natural Values of the Kimberley. The Kimberley is one of the nine regions of Western Australia. It is located in the northern part of Western Australia, bordered on the west by the Indian Ocean, on the north by the Timor Sea, on the south by the Great Sandy and Tanami Deserts, and on the east by the Northern Territory. The Kimberley was one of the earliest settled parts of Australia, with the first arrivals landing about 40,000 years ago from the islands of what is now Indonesia.

The Kimberley coast and offshore marine communities and environments are recognized as some of the world’s most ecologically diverse. Not only is the Kimberley of global importance for its largely intact terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems, it is also undoubtedly one of the world’s most intact large tropical marine ecosystems. WWF included the Kimberley marine region in its Global 200 inventory of priority places of the Planet. In the past twelve months, the spotlight has turned towards the Kimberley coast and marine environment, not for its biodiversity values but because of the hydrocarbon resources buried offshore.

The following picture shows the distribution of oil wells and pipelines off the Kimberley coast.

From the WWF Coastal and Marine Natural Values of the Kimberley report:

In the last decade, minerals and petroleum contributions to the Western Australia have risen by 10% per year to contribute $48.4 billion in 2006 and 30% of Gross State Product. (Department of Industry and Resources, 2007). Petroleum is the largest of these resource sectors and supports 50% of Australia’s market (Department of Industry and Resources, 2007). World demand has renewed incentive for upstream seismic exploration off the north west coast of Australia where natural gas resources are abundant (I.M. Longley et al., 2003). According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, offshore petroleum exploration increased in the June quarter of 2007 by a massive $246.5 million (70.4%), of which Western Australia contributed $205.9 million (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2007).

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