Santos turned on Australia’s first commercial shale gas production last Friday at the company’s Moomba-191 well in the Cooper Basin.

Moomba-191 was flowing at a stabilized rate of 2.7 MMcf/d from the Roseneath, Epsilon and Murteree shale targets, the exploration and production company said Friday. Santos claimed success for Moomba-191 in its interim report in August.

Santos Vice President for Eastern Australia James Baulderstone said the Moomba-191 was another milestone for Santos’ Cooper Basin unconventional gas program, which began in 2004. “The connection of the Moomba-191 well is a significant step forward as we work to unlock the vast unconventional potential of the Cooper Basin,” he said.

“While this is the first commercial shale well, and more work will be required to unlock the area’s full potential, this is clearly a landmark for Australia’s natural gas industry. Producing commercial quantities of natural gas from the Cooper’s shale rock formations would provide the potential for ongoing energy security for South Australia and our eastern states, plus valuable export revenue.”

The eastern domestic gas market is Australia’s largest consumer of natural gas, accounting for 64% of the country’s domestic gas consumption, the International Energy Agency said in a recent report. “It also accounts for around 35% of the country’s total gas production [including for export as liquefied natural gas (LNG)], all of which is consumed within the region where electricity generation and the residential sectors make up the largest consumers of gas,” the report said.

The Moomba-191 well was 350 meters from the existing pipeline network and eight kilometers from Moomba’s gas processing plant, which enabled it to be brought online quickly, Santos said.

Further drilling is planned for the area, including an ongoing vertical well appraisal program and Santos’ first horizontal shale well planned for early 2013.

“Natural gas from unconventional sources has been regarded as something that would happen in the future, but today’s opening demonstrates that the future is happening today,” said South Australia Premier Jay Weatherill. “This is the first step in the next wave of Cooper Basin development that will lead to natural gas from unconventional sources being increasingly used in households across South Australia and Eastern Australia more generally.”

Santos has a 66.6% interest in the South Australian Cooper Basin joint venture. The other participants are Beach Energy (20.21%) and Origin Energy (13.19%).

Santos is a major exploration and production company and is in the hunt to export large amounts of LNG from Australia, CEO David Knox told conference said at an energy conference in Houston earlier this year (see Daily GPI, March 8).