Australia — the Next Petro Superstate?

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Australia’s massive mineral exports allowed it to weather the global recession, which began in 2008, quite nicely.

The U.S. government’s Energy Information Administration noted in its country’s analysis for Australia: “Australia, rich in hydrocarbons and uranium, was the world’s second largest coal exporter in 2011 and the third largest liquefied natural gas exporter in 2012. Australia is rich in commodities, including fossil fuel and uranium reserves, and is one of the few countries belonging to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that is a significant net hydrocarbon exporter, exporting over 70 percent of its total energy production according to government sources. Australia was the world’s second largest coal exporter based on weight in 2011 and the third largest exporter of liquefied natural gas in 2012.”

Six months ago Brisbane company Linc Energy Ltd. released two reports, based on drilling and seismic exploration, estimating the amount of shale oil in the as yet untapped 30,000 square mile Arckaringa Basin surrounding Coober Pedy ranging from 3.5 billion to a mind boggling 233 billion barrels of oil. If the upper end estimates are correct then it means that the Arckaringa Basin is six times larger than the Bakken, seventeen times the size of the Marcellus formation, and 80 times larger than the Eagle Ford U.S. shale deposits. To put the potential of the Arckaringa Basin in context, Saudi Arabian reserves are estimated at 263 billion barrels.

So, what next for Linc Energy Ltd.? The company has been in discussions to find a partner to develop the Arckaringa Basin after hiring Barclays Plc to help with the process and expects to narrow the talks to one group in a “few weeks,” according to Linc Energy Ltd. chief executive officer Peter Bond. Bond added that Linc Energy Ltd.is talking with at least four parties from outside Australia interested in the shale oil project in the Arckaringa Basin.

Linc Energy Ltd. said that the characteristics of its Australian acreage “compare favorably” to the prolific Bakken and Eagle Ford shale regions of the U.S. Global energy companies including Chevron (NYSE:CVX), ConocoPhillips (NYSE:COP), Statoil ASA (NYSE:STO), and BG Group Plc are already making shale investments in Australia.

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