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Reuters: Shell says joins PNG offshore exploration blocs

DARWIN, Australia, June 19 (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (RDSa.L: Quote, Profile, Research) said on Monday it had agreed an option to farm into three deep-water exploration blocs in the gulf of Papua, offshore Papua New Guinea.

It marks a possible return to Papua New Guinea for Shell, which pulled out of its fuel retailing activities in the small Pacific nation in 2005. Under the agreement with Chinampa, a subsidiary of seismic data provider Fugro Multi Client Services, Shell has the option to take up 75 percent equity in some or all of the blocs, in exchange for funding exploration activities, the company said in a statement. The blocks cover total acreage of 45,000 square kilometres with an average water depth of 1,500 metres. Shell has agreed to fund seismic testing before deciding whether to buy into the blocs, after which it would fund one exploration well per bloc over a two-year period, and decide whether to become operator of the acreage.

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