Conoco Eyes Aussie Shale Gas

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ConocoPhillips, the third-largest U.S. oil company, could pay up to $109.5 million to explore for shale gas in Western Australia, Bloomberg News reported, citing the U.S. company's partner, New Standard Energy. New Standard said ConocoPhillips could wind up with a 75% interest in the Goldwyer project in the Canning Basin.

Texas-based ConocoPhillips (COP) and New Standard are hoping to have an agreement finalized by the end of September are targeting 2012 as a start date for shale gas exploration. New Standard said an investment by ConocoPhillips could be the first by a major oil company in Australia's shale gas business.

ConocoPhillips already has a presence in Australia through a liquefied natural gas partnership with Origin Energy. Earlier this year, Hess (HES) said it would spend about $60 million on shale gas projects in Australia's Beetaloo Basin in the Northern Territory.

It remains unclear whether or not Australia's shale gas industry holds similar potential to that of the U.S. because Australia lacks pipeline infrastructure and previous exploration drilling, according to the Australian.