Twiggy back into black gold

IRON ore billionaire Andrew "Twiggy" Forrest has dipped a toe back in the water of the Western Australian oil and gas space, with his Squadron Energy taking out a number of special prospecting licences over about half of the Canning Basin.
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Squadron will take an 80% interest in Special Prospecting Authorities with Acreage Options covering some 220, of the remote basin, around half of the underexplored basin's total 530, area.

Forrest's move comes at a time when large tracts of land in the remote region are becoming available thanks to shrinking exploration budgets.

Even the basin's most successful explorer, Buru Energy, owns just a fraction of the property it once had under licence.

Forrest's freshly-minted Squadron will take an 80% interest in the SPA-AOs alongside private Perth-based minnow Goshawk Energy (20%).

A map showing the areas under the SPA-AO has not been released.

Goshawk, which was started by Sunbird Energy founders Will Barker and Andrew Leibovitch, already has two permits in the Canning Basin, and had been looking to expand.

In a joint statement the partners said they considered the SPA-AO path as "a compelling opportunity to explore and develop in a highly promising area, and ultimately be part of Western Australia's world-class energy sector".

"Projects such as this have the potential to contribute significantly to the state's economic success," the statement said.

"With strong resource and infrastructure development experience, exceptional financial capability and vast petroleum expertise, the joint venture aims to unlock reserves and value in the region through modern exploration techniques."

Barker told Energy News that the company was trying to take a counter-cyclical position in the Canning Basin when the market was down.

"What we have tried to do, because this is an under-explored basin with only around 320 wells, is to secure different play types across the basin, some of which are at early stages and some that need additional targets to prove up," he said.

"We are targeting conventional oil and tight gas opportunities."

The pair plan a series of airborne surveys to help put together a regional data set, combined with the existing limited amount of seismic and well data to allow selection of the most prospective areas for exploration licences.

More mature areas will be shot with Falcon airborne surveys, while the less explored areas will be targeted with more traditional gravity surveys.

"We want to get on those as soon as possible," Barker said.

SPAs allow the partners to take non-invasive exploration measures for around six months, after which time the acreage option can be triggered, although it could take years before exploration licences are granted.


Barker said Minderoo brought "great financial and native title capabilities" while Goshawk brought in-house technical skills. Each will meet their pro-rata share of the modest capital entitlements.

Goshawk is chaired by Domionion Petroleum and Star Energy founder Michael Garland, while former Queensland premier Mike Ahern is a non-executive director. Barker and Leibovitch, who founded Goshawk, are both executive directors.

A spokesperson for Forrest's privately-controlled Minderoo told Energy News Squadron could be on the lookout for other assets in the energy space.

"We are always looking at other investments," the spokesperson said.

Squadron was formed to "develop the next generation of world-class natural resources projects across Australia", and is taking a long-term view of under-valued and under-developed projects considered unviable by other parties.

Squadron's entry into the energy space isn't Forrest's first tilt into the Canning Basin. When he held the leash at Fortescue Metals Group a deal was set up that would have seen FMG invest $4 million into Oil Basins and up to $10 million directly into the promising Derby Block.

That deal was derailed by the inability of FMG and Oil Basins to come to final terms, and wider joint venture issues between Oil Basins and Backreef Oil.


Barker said Goshawk was still progressing native title on its blocks near Broome, where it sees significant gas potential.

The undrilled EPA 94 covers across the Jurgurra Terrace, Fitzroy Tough and Pender Terrace.

EP 126 covers of the Fitzroy Trough and provides exposure to multiple conventional and unconventional plays, including the Devonian carbonate plays and the Laurel Formation.

The block contains a single well, WAPET's 3100m-deep Fraser River-1, drilled in 1956, and a mere 120km of 3D seismic, although the Puratte-1 oil and gas shows are just outside the block.

The 13.4MMbbl/332Bcf Yulleroo field and 8-10MMbbl Ungani field are 35-50km to the south.

Goshawk conducted airborne surveys over the licence area in the first half of 2013.

Goshawk's remaining portfolio include L12-1 on the eastern margin of the Barrow Sub-basin and Peedamullah Shelf in Western Australia's offshore areas, ATP1186 in the Surat Basin, close to the Alton and Fairymount fields, and ATP 1196 in the Cooper-Eromanga Basin, close to the Tintaburra field.