PIPELINE company AJ Lucas Group has acquired an interest in three onshore petroleum exploration licences (PEL) in New South Wales once owned by Dart Energy for $2.5 million.

The interests include a 40 per cent stake in the Santos-operated PEL 456, located in the Gunnedah basin, and 80% operating stakes in PEL 445, in the Clarence-Morton basin, and PEL 458 in the Sydney basin.

All the PELs were acquired from Lawndale, a company controlled by AJ Lucas non-executive director Andrew Purcell, who did not participate in the company’s investment decision.

The company has paid a deposit of $500,000 for the acquisition, which includes drilling and exploration equipment with a current estimated value of $275,000.

The remaining $2 million will be paid following NSW government approval of the acquisition, as well as the finalisation of formal due diligence and the execution of formal documentation.

In an announcement, AJ Lucas chief executive Russell Eggers said the purchase represented a company plan to diversify its business interests.

“Lucas has a successful track record of exploration for hydrocarbons in Australia, having successfully developed and sold investments in the Gloucester basin in New South Wales and ATP651 in the Surat basin,” he said.

“The investment also creates an opportunity to apply our drilling expertise as well as have a priority entitlement for the development of any associated infrastructure.”

Significant exploration work had previously been conducted on each of the licence areas, AJ Lucas said in an announcement, adding that it was confident of the presence of hydrocarbons.