Texas billionaire betting big on Australian gas

Billionaire Bryan Sheffield is a third-generation oil and gas executive from Texas who has committed $110 million to making the Northern Territory’s Beetaloo Basin one of the world’s next big shale gas developments. I bet.

Sheffield, who spent part of his early career as an investment banker in Sydney and whose father Scott Sheffield heads a $60 billion oil and gas company, last year bought stakes in ASX-listed Tamboran Resources and Empire Energy. Purchased.

Since last November, Bryan Sheffield has spent $102 million to acquire a 15.2% stake in Tamboran, making him the company’s largest shareholder. Tamboran said he acquired Origin Energy’s Beetaloo assets in September, positioning it as the largest player exploring gas in the basin.

In June of this year, speculation arose that Sheffield would spend about $8 million to become an Empire shareholder and seek to merge Tamboran with Empire. “He played a big role in Beataloo,” said Empire chairman Paul Espy, who also chairs the Menzies Research Center, a Liberal Party think tank. “What is his endgame – you can come to your own conclusions.”

Texas oil and gas company executive Brian Sheffield sold his business, Parsley Energy, to his father’s company, Pioneer Natural Resources, for $4.5 billion in 2020.

Tamboran CEO Joel Riddle said Sheffield was widening the stakes. “Brian told me he was interested in the entire basin. He wants to spread the bet.”

The Beataloo Basin was allocated for $220 million in public investment by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison as part of his government’s gas-fired economic recovery plan. This included government funding to support exploration and drilling by companies such as Beataloo’s Tamboran and Empire.

A federal Senate inquiry is currently investigating whether taxpayer funds should be used to support private investment in Beataloo.

“He did a great job with Beataloo.”

Empire Energy Chairman Paul Espi

Sheffield joins many riches on the Empire’s stock register, including Tasmanian billionaire Dale Elphinstone and Paul Fudge, who is worth nearly $770 million.

After acquiring Origin’s Beetaloo gas assets, Tamboran and Sheffield also found themselves partnering with Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg. Vekselberg is the largest shareholder of Falcon Oil & Gas, which remains a non-operating partner of the Origin assets.


Empire and Tamboran have attracted the interest of wealthy investors who believe Beataloo’s gas reserves could unlock wealth and redefine the Australian energy market in the midst of a crisis.

Despite being the world’s largest gas exporter, Australia is running out of gas to supply the country’s east coast, with domestic gas prices soaring and increasing cost pressures for businesses and households.

Following last month’s warning from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) that it was facing a major shortage of gas, the federal government agreed with gas exporters Shell, ConocoPhillips and Santos to secure domestic supply next year. signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen For the local industry in 2023.

The Northern Territory government estimates that Beataloo could hold more than 200,000 petajoules of gas if the project proves viable, but not all of it can be recovered. According to the federal government, the reserves far exceed Australia’s annual energy consumption of 5,790 petajoules for the fiscal year ending 30 June 2021.

First gas production from Bitaloo, if it does happen, will not happen in 2025. However, further investment in gas fracking in the Northern Territory and, more broadly, in the development of fossil fuel projects continues to face strong public and environmental opposition.

The pressure to address climate change by reducing the nation’s dependence on fossil fuels has also led some retirement funds and banks to refuse to finance or invest in gas and coal projects. This has encouraged increased private capital to these sectors.

Despite opposition to fossil fuel investment, both the federal government and the opposition agreed that gas is still needed as the economy moves toward a renewable and clean energy future.

According to Tony Wood, energy program director at the Grattan Institute, a former Origin Energy executive, the role of gas from Beetaloo in addressing Australia’s supply shortage was questionable. He said the first challenge was to get the gas from Beataloo to the East Coast of the United States. “Most people would say that Darwin is the most likely destination for that gas and then it will be exported. We have some ability to upgrade the line, but it’s pretty limited.”

“The government has made it clear that it will not invest public funds in gas infrastructure in the long term, as that would at least create a political challenge. It is to think about it slowly.”

Tony Wood, Energy Program Director, Grattan Institute, said:

Tony Wood, Energy Program Director, Grattan Institute, said:credit:Oscar Coleman

Tamboran CEO Joel Riddle said the Sheffield family’s interest in Beataloo stemmed from Brian Sheffield’s father, Scott, who served on Santos’ board of directors from 2014 to 2017. said. sub-basin.

“When Scott Sheffield was on the Santos board of directors, he knew Beataloo. It was still early in the drilling program and early data was coming in,” Riddle said. “Brian told me that his dad was so enthusiastic about the early results that some even flew from Santos to Dallas to sit with his team at Pioneer. Scott We recognized early on that Beetroot could be the world’s next big shale play.”

Riddle appeared last week ahead of a Senate inquiry into oil and gas exploration and production in Beataloo. Its chairman, Senator Sarah Hanson Young, accused Riddle of repeatedly failing to respond to summons.

“There was an early recognition from Scott [Sheffield] We have confirmed that Beetaloo has the potential to be the next big shale play in the world,” said Joel Riddle, Chief Executive Officer of Tamboran Resources.

“Mr. Riddle, you first said you were honored by the committee’s interest in your company,” Sen. Hanson Young said. “Refusing to attend a Senate hearing and ignoring a subpoena from the Senate does not seem like the way to respond to flattery. and, in the circumstances before the denial occurred, it may end up in the High Court.”

Political and regulatory challenges are now on the radar of Tamboran’s largest shareholder Brian Sheffield.

Sheffield did not immediately follow his family into the oil and gas business started by his grandfather, Joe Pursley, in the 1960s. Instead, an avid tennis player, he trained at the John Newcombe Tennis Ranch in Texas before deciding to study business at Southern Methodist University.

After graduating in 2001, he took a job in investment banking in Sydney. He then worked as a commodity trader in Chicago and then interest rate trading in Europe before going to work for his father at Pioneer His Naturals at the age of 29.

In 2008, he founded Parsley Energy, a company named after his grandfather. He was joined by one of his father’s pioneer executives in the company and took over the operation of his 109 wells, originally owned by Joe Parsley in West Texas since the 1960s.

Brian has since expanded Parsley’s investment in the oil and gas sector. In October 2020, Scott Sheffield-run Pioneer Natural Resources acquired his son’s company, Parsley, in a $4.5 billion deal.

Brian, who once told reporters that Sydney was his favorite travel destination, is now managing partner at Formentera Partners, a private equity firm focused on energy investments. He was unable to comment for this article. He plans to visit Australia and Beataloo later this year.

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Texas billionaire betting big on Australian gas

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