RPT-UPDATE 1-Statoil to take over Australian shale licenses

Tue Jun 11, 2013 5:55pm EDT
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* Statoil takes over role as operator from Sept. 1

* Seeks shale oil in the Northern Territory

* Plans up to 6 wells and seismic surveys in 2014

OSLO, June 11 (Reuters) - Norwegian oil and gas firm Statoil agreed to raise its stake to as much as 80 percent in Australian shale permits held by PetroFrontier in exchange for fully funding future exploration costs and taking over as operator.

The deal, which involves over 13 million acres in the remote frontier areas of the Northern Territory, will give Statoil its first shale operating role outside the United States from Sept. 1 as well as significant operations in an area with little activity so far.

Under the deal, Statoil can raise its stake in PetroFrontier's permits to 80 percent if it spends $160 million on exploration costs through 2016, fully funding all exploration in the permits, PetroFrontier said.

The companies have already drilled several wells in the area, looking primarily for shale oil, and plan to spend $50 million through 2014 to complete more seismic surveys and drill up to six wells.

Beyond 2016, the two companies will fund exploration costs based on their ownership interests, they said.

Statoil produces shale oil and gas in the Eagle Ford basin in Texas, the Bakken area in Montana and North Dakota, and the Marcellus area mostly in New York.

It produced about 150,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in its U.S. shale licenses in the first quarter and aims to increase that to around 300,000 barrels per day by 2020.