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Tokyo Gas to buy 25% stake in Shale gas project

BY BEN LEFEBVRE

TOKYO -- Tokyo Gas signed a contract to buy a 25% stake in Quicksilver Resources shale gas project in Texas for $485 million, the companies said.

The acquisition would give Tokyo Gas its first direct exposure to a United States shale gas development project and the Japanese utility hopes to eventually export natural gas to its energy-strapped home country.

The deal also helps Quicksilver retire some of the $2 billion in debt that it, like other relatively small United States energy producers, accumulated to finance its shale gas production business.

Under the deal, Tokyo Gas will receive a quarter of Quicksilver' s daily output of 275 MMcf of natural gas and oil from the Barrnett shale formation in central and north Texas. The deal is expected to close at the end of April, the companies said.

The Japanese company will initially market the natural gas in North America, the company said in its statement announcing the deal. However in an interview, Quicksilver CEO Glenn Darden said Tokyo Gas would like to ship at least part of the output to Japan in the future.

"Longer term, they have wishes to do that" Mr. Darden said.

Natural gas demand has grown significantly in Japan after a major March 2011 earthquake caused the government to order most of the country' s nuclear power plants closed. Tokyo Electric Power Co, Mitsubishi and other Japanese companies are hoping to import gas from the United States. However, the United States Department of Energy (DOE) has yet to decide how much, if any, exports to allow.

For Quicksilver, the proceeds are 25% higher than the company' s market capitalization and it would be a step in the company' s quest to pay down a heavy debt load. Quicksilver and other producers racked up large amounts of debt in the late 2000s to buy acres in shale formations and the equipment to develop gas and oil wells, only to become victims of their own success when dramatic increase in natural gas supply helped cause prices to crash.

Quicksilver has been paying down long term debt that reached $2.6 billion in 2008, from below $814,000 in 2007. Quicksilver expects to sell more stakes in its operations in the future, possibly in its oil and gas operations in the Horn River Basin in British Columbia, Canada, Mr. Darden said.

"That' s got some attraction from more players" Mr. Darden said.

Dow Jones Newswires

03/31/2013

 

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