THE potential to produce the equivalent of 233 billion barrels from shale oil trapped underground in South Australia has propelled Brisbane-based Linc Energy to national prominence.
According to its release on the Australian Stock Exchange on Wednesday, Linc has had the potential find confirmed by two independent firms who analysed its exploration in the Arckaringa Basin.
In perspective, Saudi Arabia earned its place as the world's largest coal exporter by tapping into the 267.6 billion barrels worth of oil it holds.
If all of it was accessible, Linc's find would almost equal that, potentially creating a booming oil industry.
Although a significant discovery for Linc, it must now translate its oil resource into a confirmed reserve.
To do that, it must work out how much - if any - of the underground oil it can mine economically.
The outlook may change dramatically if only a tiny portion could be pulled from the ground while making a profit.
As noted in Linc's own reports, "There is no certainty that any portion of the prospective resources estimated herein will be discovered".
"If discovered, there is no certainty that it will be commercially viable to produce any portion of the prospective resources evaluated."
For Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, the discovery was still good news.
He said although early days for Linc, Mr Ferguson said he hoped the potential resources proved accurate because "Australia has a growing demand for petroleum resources".
Mr Ferguson said he was confident that shale oil would become a key part of ensuring Australia's energy security.
The Australian Conservation Foundation was less convinced.
Climate change campaigner Claire Maries told APN that self-sufficiency was a noble goal for Australia's energy producers, but could be done more easily through renewable options.
"We might be sitting on a whole reservoir of fossil fuels, but we're also sitting on world-class resources in solar, wind and geothermal," Ms Maries said.
The ACF's view was that a 200sq km field of solar panels could provide for the entirety of Australia's energy needs without "taking part in destructive mining processes".
Whether other states will try to drive exploration for their own reserves is so far unclear.
A New South Wales Government spokesman told APN "the potential for shale oil reserves in NSW is not known" even as exploration for other commodities continued across the state.
The Queensland Government was not able to respond to questions about shale oil before deadline.
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