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The Forgotten Story of the World’s First MODU – Princess Royal Harbour, Albany, 1906

July 18, 2023 @ 4:45 pm - 7:30 pm

$40.00 – $70.00

Society of Petroleum Engineers Western Australia is proud to present the details of our July 2023 SPE WA Technical Evening Meeting.

About the Presentation

Today, there are approximately 500 rigs drilling for oil or gas in our oceans, seas and lakes at a cost of more than a quarter of a billion dollars a day. But how many people know that one of the earliest, if not the earliest, Mobile Offshore Drilling Unit (MODU), was built and operated right here in Western Australia, 117 years ago?

During the dredging of Albany’s Princess Royal Harbour between 1901-04, “a great flow of oil came up”. This led to New Zealand born mining engineer, Charles E Watkins, taking out a prospecting licence over the area and in 1906, forming the Princess Royal Harbour Mineral and Oil Company NL. One of the conditions set by the Mining Warden was “all boring operations are to be carried out from a floating punt and not from a fixed staging…”

Long forgotten documents, government files, newspaper articles and family archives reveal that these were the first wells in Australia, and probably the world, to be drilled from a floating vessel.

Not only will you learn what a 1906 MODU looked like, you will discover, why oil was thought to be present, what the Government Geologist had to say, how the venture lead to the world’s first offshore fatality and the widow’s prolonged fight for a Workers’ Compensation payout.

The Provisional Directors of the company were respected Albany and Perth gentlemen of various backgrounds but it wouldn’t be Western Australia without the involvement of a colourful character or two, or rivalry between Perth and Fremantle.

A piece of Western Australia’s forgotten oil and gas history.

About the Speaker – Don Poynton

Don Poynton is a retired petroleum geologist who continues his involvement in the Australian petroleum industry by researching its history.

Don graduated with an Honours degree in Science (Geology) from the Australian National University in 1971. He then spent the next 42 years working on most of Australia’s sedimentary basins for BOC of Australia, Woodside, Mesa Petroleum, Western Mining Corporation’s Petroleum Division and at the time of his retirement was Manager of Exploration and Environment for Strike Energy.

He received the Petroleum Exploration Society of Australia’s Meritorious Service Award in 2016.

Since his retirement Don has taken an active role in coastal rehabilitation and natural history organisations.

About the Event

Price:             Early Bird SPE Member          $40 <Until the 11 July 2023>
                       Early Bird Non-Member          $60 <Until the 11 July 2023>
                       SPE Member                          $50
                       Non-Member                          $70

Date:              Tuesday, 18 July 2023

Location:       Parmelia Hilton Hotel
Location:       14 Mill Street, Perth WA 6000

Time:             16:45 am – 17:00 pm Registration & Networking.
Time:             17:00 pm – 17:10 pm Opening Marks.
Time:             17:10 pm – 17:45 pm Presentation.
Time:             17:45 pm – 18:00 pm Q&A Session.
Time:             18:00 pm – 19:30 pm Closing with Networking drinks & Nibbles.

Free tickets are available for Students

SPE WA in conjunction with our sponsors is kindly sponsoring students to attend the monthly technical events. Please apply through your Student Chapter.


July 18, 2023
4:45 pm - 7:30 pm
$40.00 – $70.00
Event Category:


Pamelia Hilton Hotel
14 Mill St
Perth, WA 6000 Australia
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(08) 9215 2000
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