Oil and gas in Austria

At the beginning of the 20th century, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy was the third-largest oil producer in the world, 1909 the maximum output was 2.077,000 tons, which came mainly from the eastern part of the monarchy (Galizia). The first gas pipeline was constructed in 1916/17 in Transsylvania to bring natural gas from the Magyarsaros are to Thorenburg and Marosujvar.

After Word War I and the peace treaty of Trianon, Austria remained without any oil or gas production; Galizia became part of Poland, Transsylvania came to Romania and the small oil field in Gbely, discovered in 1914, came to newly formed Czechoslovakia. Already during World War I the army tried to find an extension of the geological trend in Austria proper - without any success, mainly because the drilling locations were selected not by qualified geologists but by applying the divine rod as the preferred tool. After the war there was no capital available for any oil exploration. In 1925 Socony Vacuum started a geological survey in the northeastern part of Lower Austria, the Vienna Basin. However, when the studies were completed by the Geologist Dr. Friedl, Socony Vacuum withdrew from Europe but allowed Dr. Friedl to make use of his findings. In 1930 Raky Danubia reported oil shows in their well "Windisch Baumgarten 1a", but it was not until 1934 that the well "Goesting 2" came in with a daily production of 40 tons; Austria became an oil-producing country.

Socony Vacuum came back to Austria, formed a 50/50 % joint venture with Shell (RAG) and secured large areas in the Vienna Basin for oil and gas exploration in 1935. At the end of 1937 total annual oil production in Austria was 32.858 tons. When Austria became a part of Germany (through the annexation of March 13, 1938) the bitumen law was issued which stipulated that exploration licenses were to be terminated by July 31, 1940, except a production license had been issued by this date. Thus a substantial part of the RAG exploration acreage was returned to the state, now the owner of the mineral rights for oil and gas. Because of the war situation the open exploration areas were licensed to German companies, which started extensive exploration activities. In 1943, 102 drilling rigs were in operation in the Vienna Basin area, as a consequence oil production rose to more than 1,3 million tons per year.

After World War II the allies decided that the German property in Austria was to belong to the occupation forces, thus the whole Austrian oil industry came under the control of the USSR. After extensive disassembly of available oil field equipment, SMV (Soviet Mineral Oil Administration in Austria) started production and exploration activities in the Vienna Basin, and in 1949 the largest oil field in Europe was discovered : Matzen.

The development of this discovery brought the oil production in Austria to a record high of 3,6 million tons in 1955. As a consequence of the Austrian State Treaty, signed in Vienna on May 15th 1955, all the operations of SMV were handed over to the Republic of Austria on August 13th, 1955, which on June 18th, 1956, formed the Oesterreichische Mineraloelverwaltung (OMV) to manage the oil and gas properties. The task to bring the operations from Russian to Western standards was enormous. Installations had to be improved to fulfill Austrian laws and regulations, an extensive road construction program was initiated (as the Russians had preferred to use crawler tractors to transport oilfield machinery), and step-by-step the outdated equipment was replaced by new machinery mainly from the US or their licensees in Europe. Great efforts were made to reduce the losses of natural gas, which were about 40 % in 1955.

With modern geophysical and drilling equipment now available, OMV started its own exploration programs, and intensively pursued the search for oil and gas in ever deeper targets. The deepest wildcat - Zistersdorf ÜT2 - reached a TD of 8.553 m on May 31st, 1983. To increase the recovery rate of existing oil reservoirs, secondary recovery methods were applied - even EOR tests were performed when the oil price allowed it.

As it became evident that the indigenous production would not satisfy the ever increasing demand for natural gas in Austria, OMV started to import natural gas from the USSR in 1969 and became a pioneer for the European gas pipeline network. Similar was the development on the crude oil sector, the continuously increasing demand led to the construction of a supply pipeline from Triest to the now 10 Million Ton Refinery in Schwechat near Vienna. To stabilize the domestic share of the Austrian crude oil demand, OMV started participating in foreign exploration ventures, today OMV has interests in the North Sea, in Libya, Pakistan, Sudan and Australia.

Until the end of 1999, Austria has produced :

oil and NGL : 110 million tons

natural gas : 65 billion m³

The annual production in 1999 was :

oil and NGL : 1 million tons

natural gas : 1,7 billion m³

The domestic demand in 1999 was :

crude oil : 10,6 million tons

natural gas : 7,74 billion m³

A total of more than 7,1 million meters were drilled in Austria since the search for oil and gas has started; in 1999 it was 37.472 m.