Origin Energy Lifts Stake in North Australia Shale-Gas Venture

By Robb M. StewartFeaturesDow Jones Newswires

MELBOURNE, Australia--Origin Energy Ltd. (ORG.AU) has lifted its bet on a prospective shale-gas resource in Australia's north, buying out venture partner Sasol Ltd.'s (SOL.JO) stake in their joint venture.

Origin said Friday it had lifted its interest in the Beetaloo venture in Northern Territory to 70% with the acquisition of the South African company's 35% stake. Financial terms weren't disclosed, but Origin said it wouldn't impact its short-term focus on cutting debt as the venture had no immediate capital requirements.

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Onshore exploration in the north comes amid heightened debate over a looming natural-gas shortage and spike in prices in the more densely populated markets along Australia's eastern seaboard. Canberra last month said it would introduce measures to restrict gas exports when there was a risk of a supply shortfall and liquefied natural gas plants on the east coast where shipping more gas than was being supplied to the domestic market.

Origin Chief Executive Frank Calabria said that with the recent discovery of a material shale-gas resource in the Beetaloo Basin, the company had seized the opportunity to increase its control of the venture as Sasol moves to tighten its focus on African and North American investments.

"Recent events have demonstrated how crucial it is for Australia to continue to develop its abundant natural-gas resources, in order to provide access to sufficient, affordable gas supply for businesses and homes across the nation," Mr. Calabria said.

Falcon Oil & Gas Ltd. (FO.V) owns the remaining 30% stake in the Beetaloo venture.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 04, 2017 21:18 ET (01:18 GMT)