Australia's Dart finalises UK shale farm-out with GDF Suez

PERTH Thu Nov 28, 2013 5:23am EST

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PERTH Nov 28 (Reuters) - Australia's Dart Energy Ltd on Thursday announced it has finalised an agreement to farm-out 13 UK onshore licences in the Bowland shale across northwest and central England to GDF-Suez.

Under the deal, GDF-Suez will pay Dart $12 million in cash upfront and $27 million in exploration and appraisal costs in exchange for a 25 percent share of the onshore licences.

Dart inked the deal on the heels of a boardroom coup earlier this week that replaced chairman Nicholas Davies with Robert Neale, the managing director of 16 percent shareholder New Hope Coal.

The deal comes despite strong local and environmental opposition in Britain to the controversial extraction practice of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, used to develop shale and unconventional gas blocks. Australia-listed Dart has also faced significant opposition to its coal seam gas drilling plans.

Dart said in a statement Thursday that it will soon begin drilling coal bed methane exploration wells and has also begun setting the groundwork for drilling shale exploration wells.

Dart's project one of three groups betting that, with help from government incentives, they will produce commercial amounts of oil and gas from Britain's shale formations.

The second group is IGas Energy, 21 percent owned by Canada's Nexen, which has been part of China's CNOOC since earlier this year.

The third is Cuadrilla, a privately owned business backed by a fund that is partly owned by former BP CEO John Browne, in partnership with British utility Centrica.

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