Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration

EMPIRE Energy will receive A$21 million in federal government funding as part of the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program designed to ramp up drilling and development in the Northern Territory.
Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration Empire awarded A$21M in federal funding for Beetaloo exploration

Energy minister Angus Taylor on site at Empire Energy's Carpentaria-1 project in the Beetaloo.

Mark Tilly

Senior Journalist

Mark Tilly

The company is the first to receive funding under the program, being awarded three grants to support three new exploration wells in its 100%-owned EP187 the Beetaloo Sub-basin. 

Under the A$50 million program, announced in December as part of the government's gas-fired recovery, Canberra will award grants of up to A$7.5 million per well to applications, with the government noting further grants will be announced in the coming months. 

"The Beetaloo Sub-basin is potentially a world-class gas resource which could create thousands of jobs and help bolster supplies of gas for the domestic market and for exports around the world," resources minister Keith Pitt said on Thursday.  

"Grants under the Beetaloo Cooperative Drilling Program are expected to deliver several additional exploration wells by 2022 and bring forward at least $150 million in private investment in the basin."

Empire noted the funding will support drilling, flow testing and fraccing the three horizontal appraisal wells, along with additional seismic acquisition and other associated costs. 

The company is currently flow-testing its first horizontal well, Carpentaria-1, reporting a good hydrocarbon show last month and lodging a discovery notice with the Northern Territory government. 

Empire Energy managing director Alex Underwood said Thursday the flow test results will soon be analysed to assess gas composition and how each four zones it has fracced in the Middle Velkerri shale is contributing to total production. 

He said the funding would speed up its activities and enable a "rapid commercialisation strategy".

"We welcome the award of federal government grants to support our planned exploration and appraisal in the Beetaloo Sub-basin," he said. 

The company said the funds will offset a quarter of its expenditure which may include additional seismic acquisition, the drilling of three wells across 2021 and 2023, noting the wells could become producing assets in the future. 

It is currently awaiting NT government approval for further seismic acquisition, which Underwood said was well in advance, adding that subsurface and operational teams are carrying out preparatory engineering and drilling design works to prepare for the next phase of the company's field program. 

Last month the Senate referred an inquiry to the Environment and Communications References Committee, to be led by The Greens and supported by Labor, over the use of taxpayer's money going toward oil and gas development in the Beetaloo. 

Pitt said on Thursday that only the Coalition could be trusted to bring jobs to the Northern Territory, saying Labor had "shoved the drilling program legislation off to a Senate Committee where the Greens have pledged to wreck the gas industry by any means at their disposal". 

"As the leader of the Greens Mr Adam Bandt has made clear - Labor and the Greens will seek to rule in coalition to destroy the gas industry, destroy the resources sector and run our economy into the ground."

Empire said it has made a submission to the Senate inquiry which will be put on public record due course.   

Empire shares are up 3.8% at 32.5c.