THE $20 billion Arrow LNG project joint-owned by Shell and PetroChina has sold its coal seam gas exploration interests in northern NSW to Dart Energy, for a nominal sum, as it focuses on its Queensland interests.
Dart announced on Tuesday it had acquired the 7100 square kilometre PEL445 licence, in the Clarence Moreton Basin, from Arrow for what it described as a "modest cash payment".
Arrow has so far drilled 15 exploration wells and it is understood the licence area - which spreads inland from Byron Bay and Lismore - could have as much as 18 trillion cubic feet of gas in place (although a much smaller amount of gas is likely to be economically recoverable).
Dart was spun off after Shell and Petrochina bought Arrow in 2010. Dart said its management team was familiar with PEL445 and its potential as they had carried out the majority of exploration work done to date while at Arrow.
The same coal seams are being targeted by fellow ASX-listed junior Metgasco, giving rise to stiff community opposition.
Dart's Australian chief, Robbert de Weijer, said: "We realise there are some concerns in the community."
"We definitely will put in some effort to engage. The more you engage, the better people will understand it. It's a very safe industry, and much cleaner than coal."