Texas down under? Australian officials make their pitch

HOUSTON — Australian officials are pitching a potential shale gas boom in their country as an investment opportunity for American firms looking to profit from expertise they’ve developed in recent years here at home.

Earlier this spring, Queensland — a state in northeast Australia — opened a new trade office in Houston, largely to tout its booming energy sector.

David Camerlengo, Queensland’s trade and investment commissioner to North America, told energy sector officials Tuesday that a slew of American businesses could benefit from helping to tap Australian resources.

“There’s no question we have an abundance of and a diverse range of energy resources,” Camerlengo said at an American Petroleum Institute luncheon.

Indeed, Australia’s gas reserves and its proximity to Asia — where demand for natural gas is soaring — has put it in a position to enjoy an energy boom and serve as a hub for liquefied natural gas export facilities. Camerlengo said the country has forecasted it will by the world leader in LNG exports by 2017.

In the U.S., just one LNG export terminal is under construction — Cheniere Energy’s facility in Sabine Pass — but seven are being built right now in Australia, Camerlengo said. Those endeavors have attracted investment from firms aroudn the world.

Australia has more than 430 trillion cubic feet of technically recoverable shale gas reserves, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Camerlengo said there are opportunities for firms working in drilling and servicing; water treatment; well operations; pipeline infrastructure and LNG operations to earn money in Australia.

Meanwhile, officials at Houston-based oil and gas exploration company Magnum Hunter Resources Corp. say they’ve already had success in Australia largely because of it’s similar to the Eagle Ford Shale, where the company has experience, but has much more room to develop.

A partnership between Australian and U.S. companies on resource development could make sense, said Kip Ferguson, executive vice president of Magnum Hunter.

U.S. companies have know-how when it comes to how to exploit shale resources, but Australia has large swaths of acreage that hasn’t been tapped, at a time when unconventional plays in the U.S. are becoming crowded.

“You have a lot of Australian companies coming and saying ‘we want that knowledge,’ and we’re saying ‘we want an area that’s not overbought,'”

Still, he said, work in Australia is a challenge: the Eagle Ford and Permian Basin may be remote, but the Australian outback is even more so. Moreover, Australia has access to fewer rigs than the U.S. The upshot, he said, is Australia’s regulatory regime is easy to work with, and the country has a reputation fro providing easy access to well data.

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