By San Francisco Business Times

Chevron Corp. found a natural gas deposit off Australiaâ¿¿s northwest coast in a test well nearly three miles deep.

San Ramon-based Chevron (NYSE: CVX) is counting on the gas-rich region under the Indian Ocean for much of its future production through its huge Gorgon and Wheatstone development projects. The Wheatstone liquified natural gas project, which includes a 120-mile undersea pipeline, could cost up to $17 billion. (A unit of San Franciscoâ¿¿s Bechtel Corp. is working on the project, too.)

Chevron is eyeing booming markets in Asia -- particularly Japan and South Korea -- for natural gas produced from this area. China and India are also potential buyers.

This well, named Sappho-1, was drilled down 15,406 feet (nearly 5 km or 3 miles) about 87 miles northwest of the small coastal town of Onslow in Australiaâ¿¿s Pilbara region.

The well is in the Carnarvon Basin, where hundreds of wells have been drilled since the 1970s. Chevron is developing facilities on Barrow Island near the gas fields.

Chevron is working in the area along with local subsidiaries of Royal Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-A) and Exxon Mobil Corp. (NYSE: XOM).

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