Image and video hosting by TinyPic
Image and video hosting by TinyPic

“Drilling Ahead” – The story of Sailfish 1 in 1971

Historic 1971 video of the drilling of Sailfish 1 in Bass Strait


A summary of "Drilling Ahead"

2 Responses to ““Drilling Ahead” – The story of Sailfish 1 in 1971”

  1. AndyMar says:

    Response to an ex-Esso geologist’s comments on “Drilling Ahead”
    from Graham Brown – Why I resigned from Planet

    Andy Marosszeky sent a link to “Drilling Ahead” to an ex-Esso colleague of his, and these are that colleague’s observations about the prospect …
    “Over at Esso where I joined in January 1971, pre-drill the common view was volcanics not a reef. Hardy **** was an exception – he voted for a reef. Vince **** probably recalls the discussion too – you could take it up with him if he attends PESA.
    The Esso geologists thought (correctly) that reef development was out of line with the known Tertiary geology. Remember, Esso had been drilling since late 1964. The geophysicists took into account that Bass-1 was prognosed as a reef but turned out to be Miocene volcanics – a cone or a small volcano plus flows. It’s also interesting that North Rankin was thought to be a big reef by some Woodside geologists pre-drill, and this wasn’t unreasonable based on the murky seismic of the day.
    So it seems the Planet consultants should have reviewed the Bass-1 results (being subsidized, the well and seismic were open file) but didn’t. Also knowledge of onshore Victorian geology would identify a strong risk of it being volcanic, and that no Tertiary reefs were known.”
    As General Manager of the Planet Group and a geologist, I was of course deeply involved in this project. I too had my doubts about the geological/seismic interpretations. Sailfish was written up in the world oil literature as “the best untested oil prospect in the world”. Because of the seismic it was likened to a giant Algerian oil field, typically a reef structure with high porosity and permeability. We had all the oil majors pounding on our door offering incredible deals, up to 25 per cent carried interest to production, when the norm was no more that 5 per cent and often much less.
    I looked in detail at the geology and formed the opinion that a reef structure was out of the question, as the water temperature at the time that the sediments were laid down was too cold for coral formation or anything else like that. I did not predict volcanics, I really had no idea what could have been forming the beautiful structure that was seen on the seismic.
    I discussed this at length with the Directors of Planet, who had decided that this prospect was so good that Planet should drill it alone. They decided not to accept the generous offers that we were receiving, and instead put the whole of the Planet Group’s funds into this one well. This meant that any funds available in not only NSW Oil and Gas and Planet Oil, but also Planet Metals and Planet Gold would be risked in one well. At the time we had 49,000 mainly mum-and-dad shareholders (there were a few large institutional investors) and Planet was risking their investments in one project that I did not believe was geologically sound.
    So I decided on purely ethical grounds that as General Manager, I could not administer that decision, and resigned. This was a huge step for me to take, but I was very concerned that the decision not to accept a partner who was prepared to drill the well at no cost to Planet was wrong in that it jeopardised the investments of so many loyal shareholding supporters.
    Planet kept me on as Managing Director of Ocean Mineral Surveys Pty Ltd to look after the offshore mineral exploration for rutile and zircon that I had a strong personal interest in, for about 18 months until that project foundered. I failed because the then Prime Minister, John Gorton, challenged to rights of the states to grant mining leases (which we had applied for) within the 3-mile zone. This had gone to the High Court in 1970, and took until 1982 to be resolved – too late as by that time the greenies had got the upper hand and offshore mining was out of the question, so it never happened.
    Because of my offshore experience, where we required a significant amount of good environmental advice, which we could not find, I decided when I resigned from Planet in late 1970, before Sailfish was drilled, to become Australia’s first full-time independent environmental consultant, and at that time one of the first in the world. I thought I knew as much about environmental issues as anyone else, hung up my shingle, and the phone rang and I was in business. This was no doubt helped by a full page article about this move in the Bulletin magazine. I am still in that business in 2011, so it must have worked.

    Graham Brown

  2. Noel Leeder says:

    Hi Graham.
    I’m so pleased that your clear reasoning about the (ultimately unwise) decision to go ahead with solo drilling of Sailfish is now on the Planetgeo site for all to read – your views were shared by many and your decision to resign on principle was very much admired by your associates but deeply regretted and held to be most sad by all those who knew your extraordinary level of dedication to all things Planet. Your subsequent success is ample proof of your skills, ability and commitment in always giving your utmost to the pursuit of optimal environmental outcomes at all times. A great and well deserved legacy which should make you very proud!
    Noel Leeder.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Sponsored by Graham a Brown & Associates