Sydney-based Oil Search has bought a 30 per cent stake in five PNG exploration licences.

The company has signed a deal with ExxonMobil to undertake a seismic acquisition programme in early 2018, which will include exploration and drilling in the emerging Eastern Foldbelt region of the onshore Papuan Gulf Basin.

“Prior to our proposed bid for InterOil in 2016, Oil Search identified the onshore Papuan Gulf Basin as an area with not only discovered gas resources, but also significant further gas potential,” said Oil Search’s managing director, Peter Botten.

“The proposed farm-in to these licences materially enhances Oil Search’s exploration portfolio in this highly prospective area. Combined with our existing acreage position, Oil Search has a world class exploration portfolio in Papua New Guinea (PNG), with multiple high potential play types close to infrastructure.”

The onshore licences cover areas near the Elk-Antelope fields, which are expected to form the backbone of the Papua LNG development and potential future commercialisation.

“In addition to the existing gas discoveries, we have identified a number of additional leads and prospects on the acreage,” Botten said.

“We are delighted to be partnering with ExxonMobil in this exciting play fairway, building on our existing relationship within the PNG LNG and Papua LNG projects, and look forward to commencing an active exploration programme.”

Oil Search’s acquisition of the licence interests is subject to due diligence, execution of binding agreements, conditions precedent and regulatory approvals.