WHL Energy (ASX: WHN) has begun planning for a 3D seismic acquisition program to begin over its VIC/P67 (La Bella) permit in late 2013 after receiving a positive referral decision from the Australian Government.
Around 811 square kilometres of 3D seismic is to be acquired over the La Bella permit, offshore southeast Australia, with WHL able to acquire it between 1 November 2013 and 31 December 2013.
Importantly, WHL could potentially "piggyback" off a nearby seismic program to reduce costs.
The company is currently in discussions with an oil and gas company with nearby assets to potentially share the use of the seismic contractor.
The acquisition of 3D seismic over the proven La Bella gas/condensate discovery and a number of prospects within the VIC/P67 permit will provide WHL with an improved understanding of the geology in the permit area and identify preferred future drilling options.
The data will also provide vital information alongside the other studies WHL is undertaking to obtain a more accurate estimation of the likely gas and condensate reserves associated with the La Bella field.
The Commonwealth Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities will not require further assessment and approval under the EPBC Act before the survey can proceed.
The determination of the EPBC referral is an important step in the approval process.
Steve Noske, managing director, commented: "This is an important milestone in WHL Energy's development of VIC/P67 and a testament to the level of work and government engagement that the company is able to achieve.
"Alongside that environmental approvals project, WHL Energy has undertaken significant technical studies to place us in the best position to take advantage of what is being viewed as an increasingly valuable gas asset located on the doorstep of an Eastern States market that is repeatedly being reported to be on the verge of an energy crisis.
"The company continues to see industry confirmation of increasing east coast gas pricing with Santos CEO David Knox recently commenting that wholesale gas prices have already risen to the top of Santos' forecast of $6 to $9 per gigajoule."
Noske said that WHL's internal modelling demonstrated a robust project and supported the company's view that Vic/P67 would yield significant value for shareholders over time.
"The continued focus on east coast gas supply has provided the company with opportunities to investigate wider partnering opportunities.
"As a consequence the company is preparing to reopen an upgraded La Bella data room for a potential farm‐in partner and remain in discussions with a number of other interested parties."
WHL is also completing the preparation of its Environment Plan and will be working through this approval process with NOPSEMA.
VIC/P67 contains the undeveloped La Bella gas/condensate field which has been by assessed by WHL to contain 2C Contingent Resources of 158 petajoules.
The La Bella field lies in 95 metres of water some 55 kilometres off the southern Victorian coast near a number of other gas fields that are already in production.
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