Petroleum Exploration in NT Waters

Timor Sea Oil and Gas Fields

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  • Northern Territory waters cover all Commonwealth waters adjacent to the Northern Territory, excluding Ashmore and Cartier Islands adjacent waters and the Joint Petroleum Development Area.
  • Northern Territory offshore waters cover an area of 501,125 square kilometres.
  • The area is relatively under-explored but there has been increased exploration interest in NT areas since discoveries in the JPDA and the Laminaria Oil Field.
  • There is approximately one exploration well per 14,000 square kilometres.
  • Sunrise/Sunset/Troubadour/Loxton Shoals (Greater Sunrise) and Evans Shoal fields lie in the Bonaparte Basin about 400km northwest of Darwin.
  • Natural gas resources have also been demonstrated in the Petrel and Tern fields.
  • Further appraisal drilling in Petrel gas field (NT waters) has been undertaken to assess reserves and development potential in common with Tern gas field (in WA waters).
  • Substantial condensate is also present in some fields.


  • The Petrel and Tern fields were discovered in 1969 and 1971 respectively.
  • The Sunrise and Troubadour fields were both discovered in 1974.
  • The Loxton Shoals field, which is an extension of Sunrise, was discovered in August 1995.
  • The Evans Shoal gas field was discovered in 1988.


  • The 1994 discovery of the Laminaria oil field in the Ashmore-Cartier Waters and discoveries in  the Timor Sea Joint Petroleum Development Area have increased exploration interest in NT areas.
  • Vacant and relinquished areas are annually released to the industry.
  • There is huge potential for major gas discoveries in NT Waters. It would be expected that such discoveries would be pursued once gas markets and pipeline infrastructure to shore are developed. The potential for significant liquids discoveries should not be overlooked. 

Current at March 4, 2002

Director of Energy

Department of Business, Industry & Resource Development
GPO Box 2901

Ph: 61 8 8999 5460
Fax: 61 8 8999 5530