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Shale Oil and the Australian Outback - A Hot, Secure Frontier

Forget the “frontier” basins of North Africa for now, and the energy sector uncertainty in the Levant, which has been taken over by the Muslim Brotherhood, here’s a massive opportunity without the security risk: The Australian Outback which is euphoric this week over a massive shale oil find said to be worth trillions of dollars.

Australian mining company Linc Energy announced this week that it had discovered shale oil deposits in the South Australian outback that would put the area’s reserves above those of Saudi Arabia if proven commercially viable. The estimates for now are a bit rough—to say the least—with Linc Energy noting anywhere between 4 billion and 230 billion barrels of oil in the fields it owns. The clincher, says Linc, is that the area has no environmental baggage—it’s in the middle of nowhere, in the Arckaringa Basin. On news of the find, Linc shares closed up 23% on 24 January.

Linc Energy CEO Peter Bond told international media: "It is massive, it is just huge If the Arckaringa plays out the way we hope it will, and the way our independent reports have shown, it's one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment. If you stress test it right down and you only took the very sweetest spots in the absolute known areas and you do nothing else, it is about 3.5 billion [barrels] and that's sort of worse-case scenario."

This is a massive deal for a country that only produces about 180 million barrels a year. South Australia’s minister of mining, Tom Koutsantonis, prefers to remain sober and cautious over the announcement, however. The deposits found are deep and remote and it’s still early days: Can they be profitably tapped? This is where the risk comes in, but the reward will be enormous.

Investors may want to look a bit more closely at Linc Energy and the Arckaringa Basin. The first thing to understand is that Linc’s shale discovery comes as it is seeking to sell some of its exploration acreage in the Arckaringa Basin, which it acquired four years ago for $100 million. The company has a $1.16 billion market value and holds 100% interest in licenses covering 65,000 square kilometers in the basin. It needs partners to help with exploration and development.

The market says yes. There have been a series of deals in the area recently. Total SA and Santos Ltd invested in a small local explorer (Central Petroleum Ltd) in 2012.

The…




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