Bight Seeks Partner for Oil Frontier That’s Lured Chevron

Bight Petroleum Corp., an explorer focused on a region off South Australia, is in talks to find a partner to help develop its two blocks in an oil frontier that’s attracted BP Plc, Chevron Corp. and Statoil ASA.

The closely held company, which has permits in the Bight Basin, plans to raise money from a private equity group to fund the initial phase of its exploration program if it doesn’t reach a favorable deal to sell a stake in the fields, Matthew Philipchuk, chief executive officer of the Calgary-based company, said today in a phone interview. Bight Petroleum plans to complete the discussions within three months, he said.

“There is definite interest from the larger companies,” he said, declining to name any possible partners. “We’re in conversations with several of them about a potential farm-out, however it all depends on what kind of terms we see.”

BP, Chevron, Statoil and Santos Ltd. are among energy companies that plan to invest more than A$2 billion ($1.8 billion) on exploration in the Bight Basin, according to the South Australian government. BP intends to start its deep-water drilling campaign in the region, which the London-based company calls a “frontier basin,” in late 2015 or early 2016.

Bight Petroleum is seeking approval to carry out a seismic survey, used to evaluate the location and size of potential oil and gas resources, between March and May of 2015 in waters about 100 kilometers (62 miles) west of Kangaroo Island, Philipchuk said. That’s a delay from an earlier target of March to May of 2014, documents filed last year with the federal government show. Drilling may begin in 2017, he said.

BP’s permits are in deeper waters about 300 kilometers west of Bight Petroleum’s blocks, according to Bight’s website.

Sharks, Dolphins

Exploration in the region has sparked concerns among groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare about potential risks to marine life and the environment. The Great Australian Bight is home to great white sharks, whales, seals and dolphins, and more than 85 percent of the species in the area can’t be found anywhere else, the Commonwealth Scientific & Industrial Research Organization said last year.

The country’s industry group, the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association, says there isn’t any evidence that seismic surveys, which bounce sound waves off underground rock formations, harm marine species.

Chevron, the second-largest U.S. energy producer by market value, plans to invest almost A$500 million on exploration in the Bight Basin after winning permits last year, the Australian government said in October. Statoil, Norway’s biggest oil and gas producer, agreed last year to acquire 30 percent of BP’s four exploration licenses off South Australia.

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