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Bryan Sheffield increases stake in Empire Energy

Oil and gas tycoon Bryan Sheffield has significantly expanded his investment in the Australian gas sector, elevating his stake in the emerging gas player Empire Energy (ASX:EEG) to over 5% overnight. The move underscores Sheffield’s confidence in the potential of the Australian gas market, particularly in the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Sub-basin, which has garnered increasing attention from industry players worldwide.

Sheffield, a third-generation oil and gas executive hailing from Texas and the son of Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield, has already made substantial investments in the Australian gas industry, with over $100 million poured into the Beetaloo Sub-basin. This area is poised to become one of the significant developments in the global gas sector.

Currently holding a 5.27% stake in Empire Energy (ASX:EEG) and a 12.98% stake in Tamboran Resources (ASX:TBN), Sheffield is strategically positioned within two of the three companies operating in the Beetaloo. His increased investment follows recent reports of Tamboran Resources achieving better-than-expected flow rates of 3.2 MMcf/d, normalised to 6.4 MMcf/d over 1,000 meters.

Sheffield joins a cadre of wealthy investors on Empire’s share register, including Tasmanian billionaire Dale Elphinstone and Paul Fudge, whose net worth approaches $770 million. Moreover, Sheffield’s collaboration extends to Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg, the largest shareholder in Falcon Oil & Gas, who remains a non-operating partner of the Origin assets within the Beetaloo.

The interest from deep-pocketed investors reflects growing confidence in the Beetaloo’s gas reserves, which have the potential to revolutionise Australia’s energy market. Despite being a major global gas exporter, Australia grapples with gas shortages on its east coast, resulting in skyrocketing domestic gas prices, exacerbating financial pressures for businesses and households alike.

The Northern Territory government estimates that the Beetaloo could hold more than 200,000 petajoules (5.34 trillion cubic metres) of gas, although not all of that would be recoverable if the projects do prove viable. The reserves dwarf Australia’s annual energy consumption, which was 5,762 petajoules in the financial year to June 30, 2022, according to the federal government.

The recent clearance for fracking in the Beetaloo basin, authorised by the Northern Territory government in May 2023, further underscores the region’s potential for gas production. This decision follows the fulfillment of recommendations from an independent inquiry into fracking, paving the way for the expansion of gas wells across the Beetaloo.

Northern Territory Chief Minister, Natasha Fyles, expressed optimism about the role of gas resources in supporting the transition to renewable energy. She stated, “Along with our world-class renewable resources, our highly prospective onshore gas resources will support the energy transition to renewables not only for the Northern Territory but for Australia and the world.”

As investors like Sheffield deepen their involvement in the Australian gas sector, the trajectory of the Beetaloo basin becomes increasingly pivotal, promising significant implications for Australia’s energy landscape and its global standing in the renewable energy transition.