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McClendon Sets Sights on First Overseas Adventure: Australia's McArthur Basin

Aubrey McClendon, a pivotal figure in the U.S. natural gas arena for decades, is planning to take his wares across the pond for the first time, with the company he most recently founded, American Energy Partners LP (AELP), signing a letter of intent (LOI) with Armour Energy Ltd. for drilling rights in Australia's McArthur Basin.

AELP will spend $100 million over a five-year period in exchange for a 75% working interest in Armour's McArthur Basin, Northern Territory oil and gas exploration project, the Brisbane, Australia-based company said Thursday. The effort will focus on 21.5 million acres of Armour's 34 million acre project. The project area "represents the largest and most important part of the Northern, Central and Southern McArthur Basin, where the thickest and most oil and gas prone sections of the McArthur and Tawallah groups are present," Armour said. It includes the Glyde prospect, where Armour flowed 3.3 million standard cubic feet of gas per day from the Coxco Dolomite in 2012.

The entry of AELP into the LOI "vindicates Armour's view that the McArthur Basin represents one of the world's great opportunities for the discovery of a new frontier oil and gas province," said Nick Mather, Armour executive chairman. "Elsewhere in the world, the organic rich Proterozoic Basins in Oman and Siberia host several multi billion barrel fields. In contrast, the McArthur has not really been touched."

Under terms of the preliminary agreement, AELP will pay Armour as much as $18 million in signing bonuses, has an option to acquire a 5% stake in the Australian company and name a director to the Armour board of directors. AELP and Armour will work toward execution of definitive agreements within three months, subject to up to three extensions of up to three months each, at AELP's election upon payment of $250,000 in cash to Armour for each extension.

McClendon, the former chief of Chesapeake Energy Corp., formed AELP in April 2013 and subsequently created affiliated partnerships that concentrate on developing U.S. onshore oil and natural gas. In the United States, AELP and its affiliates operate in the Marcellus and Utica shales, the Permian Basin, and the Central Northern Oklahoma Woodford play.

In June, American Energy -- Midstream LLC, a McClendon-led entity whose business is concentrated in Appalachia natural gas pipelines, transitioned as a standalone company with a new name, Traverse Midstream Partners LLC (see Daily GPIJune 23).

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