UPDATE 4-PetroChina on prowl offshore, buys into Australia LNG project

Wed Dec 12, 2012 4:36am EST
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* PetroChina buys into Australia's Browse LNG project

* To pay BHP $1.63 bln for minority stake

* Deal comes as China seeks more foreign energy sources

* Deal hinges on other partners choosing not to match sale price

By James Regan

SYDNEY, Dec 12 (Reuters) - China's PetroChina Co Ltd has agreed to pay $1.63 billion for a minority stake in a controversial Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, as it steps up efforts to source more of its energy in foreign countries.

Mining and energy giant BHP Billiton said it would sell PetroChina its share of the Browse LNG project, estimated to cost $30 billion to build, after deeming it a "non-strategic" asset.

China's state-owned energy giants have been bidding aggressively for foreign oil and gas fields as Beijing looks to secure energy supplies to meet rising demand. China also aims to double the share of gas in its overall energy mix to more than 8 percent by 2015, while coal will be cut to just over 60 percent.

The Browse stake marks Petrochina's first major acquisition this year after it set aside $16 billion for overseas investment as part of a plan to have half its production outside of China within eight years.   Continued...