Beach Energy does $343m shale deal with Chevron

A JUNIOR player in shale gas has done a deal worth potentially $343 million with energy powerhouse Chevron in exchange for it sharing the treasures in two gasfields in Queensland and South Australia.

The two parcels are held by Beach Energy in the Cooper Basin, an area on the border of the two states.

They span almost 330,000ha, with 167,000 of those in the Queensland parcel in the most western part of Queensland near Nappa Merrie.

Shale and other unconventional gas can be tricky.

It relies on pulling gas from rock and while the fuel may be plentiful, it can often prove costly or difficult to extract.

Beach shares its interest in the two blocks with Icon Energy, another small player that has given approval to the deal.

In a two-stage agreement, Chevron will spend $201 million in cash to buy a 60% stake in both gas tenements.

A further $142 million will be funnelled directly into paying for costs associated with exploration in South Australia.

Chevron will be able to opt out after the first stage if the figures are grim, or after stage two if it does not wish to develop.

The deal also relies on approval from the Federal, South Australian and Queensland governments.

For Beach Energy boss Reg Nelson, Chevron were not the first corporate suitor to knock on the door of its South Australian headquarters, but it was the best.

While the other options remained confidential, it was obviously tempting to have a partner already prepared to spend upwards of $37 billion on global projects this year.

Mr Nelson said it was early days for the gas fields, with "a lot of risk and a lot of work to do".

"We have always recognised we need a big partner," Mr Nelson said.

"If this turns out to be a very big resource play, you need someone with financial capability, access to skills and experience, research and the ability to procure and services at short notice around the world."

After all, he said, it is one thing to have huge swathes of land, it was another to be able to do something with it.

Where Beach, Icon and Chevron would pipe this gas remains unclear, but sending it to the Queensland coastline for conversion into liquefied natural gas could be an option.

"The market is there is the eastern states, the pricing is attractive," Mr Nelson said.

Chevron itself declined to discuss the deal beyond a media statement which described the deal as "aligning with its business strategies".

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