News 08 Jul 2021

Gas gamechanger

Fifty years ago, onboard a drilling rig at North Rankin, Stan Stroud became the first person to hear North West Shelf gas – and immediately knew its importance.

Fifty years ago this June, the North Rankin gas and condensate field was discovered off Western Australia’s North West coast and the benefits generated continue to this day.

North Rankin not only set Woodside on the path from small explorer to Australia’s largest independent oil and gas company; it also shaped the nation itself by providing the foundation to a brand new LNG industry.

That industry has spawned revenue streams in exports and taxes totalling many billions of dollars and created countless jobs and opportunities for Australians.

“In 1971, there were only two LNG plants in the world,” notes former Woodsider Stan Stroud.

“Of course, we weren’t looking for gas in 1971 – we were searching for oil.”

But gas is what was found, and the discoveries that year were momentous – at Scott Reef, North Rankin, Goodwyn and then Angel in 1972.

“It was an unbelievably spectacular time – you never saw people so motivated,” Stan tells Trunkline.

In 1971, as a 28-year-old, he was made acting senior petroleum engineer for the Operator BOCAL (Burmah Oil Company of Australia Ltd), one of Woodside’s then partners in its North West explorations, while his boss, Terry Stevens, was on holiday in the UK.

North Rankin’s resources were unearthed one night in June when Stan was aboard the Ocean Digger drilling rig.

“A 2,200ft section had been drilled and found some 1,100ft of gas,” he recalls, adding the gas was three times thicker than the thickest then known in the world.

When a formation interval tester had been recovered, Stan heard the hiss of gas (becoming the first person to hear North West Shelf gas) and knew immediately this enormous discovery would change the history of WA.

Burmah’s plan to make him its chief petroleum engineer in Ecuador also became history.

Stan remained in WA and enjoyed three separate stints with Woodside totalling almost 30 years. He was technology champion one year and won the inaugural Chairman’s Award in the annual Woodside Awards for his applied metocean research.

He still lives in Perth and works as a metocean consultant.

Executive Vice President Sustainability Shaun Gregory, whose responsibilities include technology, new energies and exploration, describes the North Rankin well as a gamechanger.

“The North Rankin well was companydefining for Woodside and the start of a whole new industry for Australia,” Shaun says.

“We hope that our efforts in new energy can deliver breakthroughs in the energy transition just as North Rankin did for the domestic gas and LNG business.”