Energy Deals Sizzle in Australia Outback

From The Wall Street Journal

By Ross Kelly

Australia’s outback is heating up for global energy companies.

Perth-based Central Petroleum CTP.AU 0.00% on Tuesday forged its second joint-venture partnership in as many months with an international oil major. Total SA FP.FR +0.45% will help Central explore for energy resources in the Northern Territory and Queensland state.

Last month Central linked up with Santos, which is already Total’s gas-export joint-venture partner in Queensland, to help it test some other prospects in the Northern Territory.

Asia’s growing thirst for fuels that burn cleaner than coal has helped Australia’s natural gas industry boom, with the likes of Chevron CVX +1.07%, Shell and ConocoPhillips COP +1.20% plowing billions of dollars into building massive liquefied natural gas, or LNG, projects on the coast.

Large conventional energy resources located in places welcome to foreign investment are getting harder to come by, pushing companies deeper into remote locations to explore for what are typically more unconventional forms of fossil fuel, such as shale gas trapped in dense rock formations.

Central Australia has a vast untapped shale gas resource previously considered too expensive to exploit. But the spike in regional demand has pushed natural gas prices high enough for companies like Total to start edging into the region.

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