The Option Agreement runs to mid-June 2005 during which time ROC will review the petroleum prospectivity of the area and decide whether it wishes to exercise its entitlement.
If ROC exercises the Option, the final equity which the Company will acquire in each of the four permits will be determined by the magnitude of a seismic and drilling program that would be operated and 100% funded by ROC during the next two or three years. As a result of fulfilling a minimum work program, consisting of 330km of 2D seismic and an exploration well, ROC will earn a 50% interest in three of the permits and a 75% interest in the fourth permit in which the well is drilled. The preliminary cost estimate for such a program is A$3 to 4 million. The Option provides ROC with the right to earn further interests in all four permits by operating and funding up to seven additional wells.
In consideration for the Option, ROC has paid approximately US$50,000 to Sweetpea as a partial reimbursement of the company's past costs. If the Option is exercised and the farmin fully completed Sweetpea will retain a 12.5% working interest in each of the four permits plus a 5% overriding royalty.
The Option is subject to normal industry terms and conditions.
The Beetaloo Basin covers approximately 8.8 million acres/35,600sqkm and is barely explored.
The basin contains more than 3,000m of Precambrian and younger sediments including several thick, rich source rock intervals, the richest of which has reportedly more than 100m of black, generally oil-prone, shale with a total organic carbon content (TOC) which typically ranges from 4 to 7% but which can be as high as 12%. Three thick sandstone sequences also occur within the basin which may represent potential reserves interbedded with the source rock intervals. Large, untested structural leads are also thought to be present.
Within the basin there is only about 2,700km of 2D seismic and 11 wells. Most of the wells are stratigraphic tests, drilled during the late-'80s to early-'90s by the petroleum arm of a large mining company. Few, if any, of the wells were located with reference to seismically defined structural closures. Nevertheless, oil shows have been reported in several of these holes and free oil has been reportedly recovered on test.
International oil producing areas which are considered to be broad analogues to the Beetaloo Basin exist in North America, eastern Siberia and the Middle East.
Commenting on the transaction, ROC's Chief Executive Officer, Dr John Doran stated that:
"In a number of ways this transaction is a typical ROC deal. It is a series of low cost options, with a private company, run by knowledgeable industry people with whom we feel comfortable. It relates to an area which most industry participants would consider unfashionable and an opportunity which has been sourced through our industry contacts. The upside potential is large but, as yet, unproven, because, despite appearing to have the ingredients for the generation and entrapment of oil, the area is, for all practical purposes, barely explored.
Quite a few things have changed during the 12 or more years that have passed since the last time there was a serious attempt to look for oil in the Beetaloo Basin. Substantial infrastructure has been established in the form of a much improved road link and a new rail line to Darwin; new gas pipelines have been constructed; Aboriginal land right agreements have been executed – and oil is no longer US$12/BBL.
In some parts of the world the seven million acres involved in the transaction would, perhaps, impress; but, in Australia we have a healthy cynicism about such things and fully realise that a big, pure exploration acreage position is, not in itself, of any immediate value – although it does come in handy when a discovery is made."
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