Jordan Blum, editorial director, Hart Energy: We are here at Hart Energy's America's Natural Gas Conference. I'm joined by a shale legend, Dick Stoneburner, formerly of Petrohawk Energy, now of Tamboran Resources. If I could get you to just touch on just how this Tamboran story started out, pivoting from essentially Texas to Australia.
Dick Stoneburner, chairman, Tamboran Resources: Well, actually they've always been international. The company had some geologists that advised an investment to be made into the basin based upon its apparent shale productivity back in 2009. So the early genesis was a tenement that Tamboran received the rights to, it's called EP161, but it's a very good portion of the basin, but we didn't have any capital. So what we needed to do was find a capital source to help us prove the play up, develop it. And so we went to Santos. Santos is one of the larger independents in Australia. They took a farm out. They have 75%, we have 25%. That first well was drilled in 2014. Just a pilot hole. Saw the log. I joined the board in 2016 and then we've kind of followed this long and winding road to get to where we are today.
JB: Very good. So can you tell me about the Beetaloo Basin shale play and maybe compare and contrast the U.S. versus Australian rock?
DS: Once we got that contemporary log, like I mentioned in 2014, I initially said, and my eyes told me, ‘this is very, very comparable to a lot of our shale plays.’ Most specifically we used the Marcellus, but I think you could look at the Eagle Ford and make the same statement. But there are six or eight petrophysical characteristics that one looks for, whether it be through a log or through a core. And you can make comparisons on those various petrophysical characteristics. And when you line them up against each other, this rock compares favorable, if not more favorable to the Marcellus. So when you compare to a play that's making 35 Bcf right now, you got to feel pretty good about it. And it's very large. It's about 5 million acres. We own the majority of it in one way or another. We own about 2 million net acres. So the prize is huge.
JB: Great. So can you talk about some of the partnerships y'all have? You're working with Brian Sheffield, formerly of Parsley Energy in the Permian. Now you have a really interesting partnership with Helmerich & Payne as well.
DS: Yeah, it's been critical to our ability to continue moving forward. We're, again, a non-revenue company and it's hard to develop a shale play like this for a number of years without revenue. So we have to go to the outside markets to track capital. And we've been pretty good at it. And then it's kind of a funny story, I was on the board of Brigham Minerals. I know Bud [Brigham, founder of Brigham Minerals] quite well. Bud asked me, do you know Brian [Sheffield]? I said, well, I know of Brian, but I don't know Brian. So Bud introduced the two of us via an email. I then introduced him to the management team and three weeks later he's got $30 million invested in the company. So I mean, obviously his dad was on the board of Santos back when we drilled that first. Well, so I think Brian knew about the play and obviously had studied it with his internal team. But for him to just go in like that, and since then, he's doubled or tripled that investment by being our joint venture partner in the Origin [Energy] acquisition, additional equity investments as we needed to raise more equity over the years. So he's just been a tremendous source of not only capital, but good technical expertise because he has his own team as well. So we are a working interest partner with him in every sense of the word.
JB: So the plan is to slowly but surely ramp up on this massive acreage. And then even longer term, I guess build out LNG infrastructure as well?
DS: We hope to have a 40 million a day pilot composed of around six or seven wells completed by the end of 2025. We've got a 12-inch pipeline that's only 30 kilometers away. We'll begin generating revenue with the sale of that gas. We'll then take about a half to build the production, with the revenue that we'll be generating and additional capital, build the production to about a half a Bcf a day going to the southeast markets because the southeast market in Australia is really dire, seriously in danger of lacking the necessary gas to keep the country going. So anyway, we will get that gas to the southeast market. And then eventually, there's two liquification plants in Darwin already. We have been granted an opportunity to build one 420-acre site that's ours and ours alone. And our intention is to begin a construction on an electrification plant shortly after 2025 and have that in service by 2030 and deliver a [billion] and a half a day to that facility. So we've got a really, I call it a crawl, walk, run strategy. We'll crawl with 40 million, we'll walk with a half a [billion cubic feet], and then we'll run with a [billion cubic feet] and a half into Darwin, and by then the basin will be very, very active.
JB: Very good. Well, since you closed with it on stage, can I get you to repeat the West Texas comparison line?
DS: Sure. I had a picture of the northern territory landscape on my closing slide, and I said, ‘as you can see, it looks a lot like West Texas,’ but there was a kangaroo jumping in the middle of it. And I said, ‘the wildlife's a little bit different.’
JB: Very good. Well no, thank you so much for joining us for this Hart Energy LIVE Exclusive interview. To read and watch more, please visit online hartenergy.com.
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