US Empire to expand in Tasmania

US exploration company Empire Energy Corporation is set to begin a $31 million drilling program in the next phase of its onshore search for oil and gas in the Tasmanian Basin.

Yesterday the company announced its intention to drill up to eight wells at key locations over the coming year, begining no later than August 2008.

According to an independent analyst report released by Empire, the drilling program has prospective oil resources of 67-145 million barrels and natural gas resources of 347-799 billion cubic feet.

The report by RPS Energy said that based on current record energy prices, the value of the resources would be between $7-15 billion.

Phil Simpson, executive director of Empire's local subsidiary, Great South Land Minerals, told The Australian the potential resource could be signifcantly more.

"Really the potential could be significantly more, but you have to be conservative," he said.

"You can comfortably say that (exploration) tenement can hold up to $15 billion - I don't think that's a wild assertion."

Tasmanian Minister for Energy and Resources David Lleyellyn said the state welcomed the new exploration.

"Rising oil costs and diminishing world reserves makes the Tasmanian exploration very important," he said.

"A commercial oil or gas discovery would benefit our economy enormously and assist in meeting Tasmania's and Australia's future energy needs.

"The RPS Energy report is another small but important step towards the possibility that a commercial oil and gas resource exists, and could one day be developed by GSLM and its parent company Empire Energy."

The proposed drilling program would also build on a database of seismic, gravity, magnetic, geochemical and geophysical data to determine the potential of the oil and gas resource in the Tasmania Basin.

"The company is now planning to take the next step to drill some of its prospective structures and, if sizeable hydrocarbon reserves are found, bring those wells into production," the minister said.