PetroChina Acquires BHP Billiton's Browse Stake for $1.63B

Asia's largest oil and gas producer PetroChina has agreed to pay BHP Billiton $1.63 billion for its holding in Woodside Petroleum's proposed Browse liquefied natural gas project in Western Australia, the latter said in a statement Wednesday.

PetroChina will acquire an 8.33 percent stake in the East Browse joint venture and a 20 percent share in the West Browse project, thus allowing the Chinese giant to gain access to Australia's natural gas resources, BHP disclosed.

PetroChina's acquisition of BHP Billiton's stake in the Browse follows closely on the heels of Beijing's pledge to reduce its reliance on traditional sources of energy moving towards 2015. According to China's 12th Five-Year Plan (2011 to 2015), the country's natural gas consumption is targeted to double from the current 4.4 percent of national energy usage to mitigate the effects of rising energy demand.

Besides PetroChina, fellow Chinese company CNOOC made a similar move to enlarge its footprint in the Australian gas industry. CNOOC earlier in September inked an agreement with Exoma to increase its interest in five oil and gas permits in the prolific Eromanga and Galilee Basins. Like the agreement which PetroChina signed with BHP Billiton Wednesday, CNOOC's enlarged stake in the CNOOC-Exoma JV allows the Chinese company greater access into Australia's gas resources.

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