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Statoil agrees $1.3 billion U.S. shale gas JV with Talisman

By Gwladys Fouche

OSLO (Reuters) - Norwegian oil firm Statoil is expanding further its shale gas operations in the United States, saying on Sunday it has created a joint venture with Canada's Talisman to acquire acreage on the Eagle Ford prospect in Texas for $1.325 billion.

Statoil said the deal, its second major shale gas acquisition in North America, would give it recoverable reserves of about 550 million barrels of oil equivalent, and would help it develop technologies it sees as key to its growth worldwide.

In 2008 Statoil acquired a 32.5 percent stake in the Marcellus Shale project from Chesapeake., a holding covering 1.8 million acres in the Appalachian region of North-East America.

Shale gas -- natural gas trapped in layered rock, rather than porous reservoirs -- has revolutionized the U.S. gas market by offering an abundant new supply source, driving prices down.

Statoil said mastering shale gas technology, such as horizontal drilling or hydro-fracking, is key to the growth of international oil companies in general and Statoil in particular.

"The use of this technology will not be applied to America alone; it will be applied globally, particularly in China, where we think is one of the fastest growing gas markets over the next few decades," John Knight, senior vice-president for business development and global unconventional gas, told Reuters.

"So we hope we will be able to operate in China in due course and learn those skills in the U.S.," he added.

Statoil previously said it was in negotiations with Chinese oil companies about shale gas exploration in the Asian country.

$1.3 BILLION DEAL

Statoil said on Sunday it and Talisman were jointly buying 97,000 acres of land in southwest Texas from Denver-based Enduring Resources for $1.325 billion and have formed a 50/50 joint venture to develop these assets.

The Norwegian firm will also buy half of Talisman's existing assets in the Eagle Ford play for $180 million.

"As a result, Statoil and Talisman will together hold 134,000 net Eagle Ford acres and associated assets and production in the joint venture," it said.

The two transactions amount to a total consideration for Statoil of $843 million, Statoil said, adding that Talisman would initially take the lead as operator for the total acreage.

Statoil said it would take over the operatorship of 50 percent of the acreage within three years.

The deal is expected to be completed by the end of 2010, Statoil said, adding that Morgan Stanley acted as an advisor to Statoil on this transaction.

(Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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