Thursday 26 April 2018

Falcon confident Australia will lift ban on fracking

Australia ban is impeding development of Irish-based company's flagship asset, writes Gavin McLoughlin

Falcon Oil & Gas chief executive Philip O’Quigley
Falcon Oil & Gas chief executive Philip O’Quigley
Gavin McLoughlin

Gavin McLoughlin

Falcon Oil & Gas chief executive Philip O'Quigley is "very confident" that a fracking ban preventing commercial development of its flagship prospect will be lifted.

The prospect is located in the Beetaloo basin in Australia's Northern Territory (NT). O'Quigley, inset, was speaking after Falcon's partner in the prospect, Origin Energy, presented a geological report on the asset this week which was greeted favourably by the market.

Falcon's shares closed up 20pc on the week in London on Friday.

O'Quigley said his confidence that the ban will be lifted was based on the findings of a draft final report on the matter, commissioned by the authorities.

Fracking is controversial because opponents say there is a risk of groundwater contamination.

It works by drilling into the ground and shooting rocks with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to release the resources inside.

"Having considered the most current available scientific literature and data from a wide range of sources, and noting the recent and continuing technological improvements in the extraction of onshore shale gas, the conclusion of this Inquiry is that the challenges and risks associated with any onshore shale gas industry in the NT are manageable," the report found.

"The panel is of the opinion that with enactment of robust and rigorously enforced safeguards, the waters shall continue to flow "clear and cold out of the hills".

O'Quigley said he was confident that the relevant minister - Michael Gunner - would proceed on the basis of the final report's recommendations, given Gunner's previous indications. The final report is due to be released next month.

Falcon, which also has prospects in South Africa and Hungary, is based in Dublin. Its largest shareholder is a company connected to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg's Renova Group.

Vekselberg - who has a fortune worth $16.7bn according to Bloomberg's billionaire's index - was selected by the Russian government to be president of the Skolkovo Foundation, a project designed to create a large "innovation centre" with input from some of the world's biggest companies.

Vekselberg made his fortune when Boris Yeltsin began privatising Russia's aluminium industry in the early 90s.

He founded Renova in 1990 and used his aluminium riches to buy into Tyumen Oil, one of Russia's biggest oil producers, which eventually formed a joint venture with BP before being bought by Rosneft.

Sunday Indo Business

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