Brisbane's Linc Energy has released independent estimates based on drilling and seismic exploration that its shale resource in South Australia's Arckaringa Basin contains up to 223 billion barrels of oil equivalent reserves and could be worth hundreds of billions of dollars.
"The opportunity of turning this into the next shale boom is very real," Linc Chief Executive Officer Peter Bond was quoted as saying by The Age newspaper.
"If the Arckaringa plays out the way we hope it will, and the way our independent reports have shown, it's one of the key prospective territories in the world at the moment." Bond said, noting that each well could flow at 1,000-2,000 barrels per day.
Linc has appointed Barclays Bank to find an investment partner for the next stage of the project. Up to $300 million would be needed to prepare the site for production.
Bond said Linc wants a partner that has the expertise to unlock the shale.
"It could be a major oil company, it could be one of the major operators in shale, it could be one of the larger overseas oil groups," he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.
Bond said that Linc would continue to hold a significant stake in its 100 percent-owned Arckaringa, likely at least half. Linc holds rights to more than 25,000 square miles in the basin.
"We'll wait and see in a couple of years how it drills and develops," he told The Age.
South Australia's Resources Minister Tom Koutsantonis says the reserves are likely to be able to "at the very least, supply Australia."
"Shale gas and shale oil will be a key part to securing Australia's energy security now and into the future," he said.
Last year, Australia's oil production fell 14.5 percent to 484,000 barrels a day, the lowest level since 1983, as conventional fields became depleted, says a BP study.
Australia consumes just less than 1 million barrels of oil a day, with the country producing about less than half of that.
Linc aims to drill up to six horizontal wells to confirm the resource estimates.
In the meantime, John Young, a senior resources analyst at Wilson HTM, says it is too early to fully determine the quality of the resource and how much is extractable at a commercially competitive cost.
"The numbers are going to be very large," he said, adding that a significant amount of exploration and appraisal work would be needed.