AUSTRALIAN oil and gas company Rawson Resources has been awarded a petroleum prospecting licence (PPL) in the North New Guinea Aitape basin, the first of four the company hopes to acquire.

The 494,700 hectare PPL 549 was wholly awarded to Rawson on a six year term with a further six year renewal period, with the first well to be drilled in 2020, the fourth year it is held.

In an announcement, Rawson said it was “extremely encouraged by the numerous oil and gas seeps in the area, demonstrating the presence of an effective petroleum source.”

“The first phase of the work program will focus on validating previously identified reefal anomalies and the potential of clastic reservoirs in the licence.”

Rawson said reefal anomalies mapped during previous exploration efforts looked to be analogous to reservoirs in the Salawati basin in Irian Jaya, 900 kilometres west, which has produced oil and gas since the 1930’s.

Structural traps also appear to exist along the southern margin of the Aitape basin, in close proximity to oil seeps along the bounding fault zone, the company said.

Rawson has lodged two further licence applications in the north coast, which it says will give it a foot in the door in this new frontier area, as well as another two applications under consideration.

These are located in the Western province close to the existing Stanley, Elevala, Ketu, Tingu and Ubuntu discoveries.

Rawson said the applications represent lower risk plays as evidenced by the number of successful exploration wells drilled in the area over recent years.

If successfully awarded, these licences will complement t he higher-risk exploration opportunities in the North New Guinea basin, Rawson said, building a strong portfolio for the company in PNG.