Dart Says Centrica Deal May Spur Talks for U.K. Shale Partner

Dart Energy Ltd. (DTE), an explorer with shale gas prospects in northwest England, said Centrica Plc (CNA)’s deal last week to acquire a 25 percent stake in a license in the region may help accelerate its talks to find a partner.

Dart’s acreage in the U.K.’s Bowland Basin has attracted “a lot of interest,” Chief Executive Officer John McGoldrick said in a phone interview from Singapore. Centrica, the largest U.K. energy supplier, bought part of Cuadrilla Resources Ltd.’s Bowland shale license for 40 million pounds ($63 million) and will pay exploration costs of as much as 60 million pounds.

Dart, whose shares have surged 37 percent in Sydney since the Centrica transaction was announced June 13, said earlier this year it would look for a partner to develop the Bowland acreage. Centrica’s deal may help spur investment in the nascent U.K. shale industry after exploration was held up because drilling by Cuadrilla caused two earth tremors in 2011.

“The Centrica deal has injected some urgency into the situation, because a lot of these companies don’t react that quickly,” McGoldrick said. “If you want to play, all of a sudden the playground appears to be getting smaller.”

Cuadrilla has said its licenses may hold 200 trillion cubic feet of gas. An extraction rate of 30 percent, the maximum seen in U.S. shale fields, would be enough to increase U.K. reserves more than eightfold. Dart says its Bowland shale acreage may hold as much as 110 trillion cubic feet of gas.

“I’m pushing very hard to get something put together shortly” on a partnership, McGoldrick said. “We’re pushing ahead, and maybe this deal will help accelerate things.”

To contact the reporter on this story: James Paton in Sydney at jpaton4@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jason Rogers at jrogers73@bloomberg.net

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