THE Department of Energy (DoE) approved the entry of the Palawan petroleum exploration project of an Ayala-led unit into a new phase as the agency moved to classify it as a non-associated gas discovery.

In a stock exchange disclosure, ACE Enexor, Inc. said its deep-water block project led by its subsidiary Palawan55 Exploration & Production Corp. under the DoE’s Service Contract (SC) 55 is set to enter an appraisal period starting April 26.

This came upon the government’s review and evaluation of the company’s discovery report on the Hawkeye-1 deep-water well within the service contract area.

“[W]e hereby confirm that the Hawkeye-1 well did encounter a significant volume of movable natural gas and is deemed to be a Non-Associated Gas Discovery under Section 13.02 of SC 55,” the company said, citing the DoE.

The DoE defines non-associated gas as “all gaseous hydrocarbons produced from gas reservoirs, including wet gas, dry gas, and residue gas remaining after the extraction of liquid hydrocarbons from wet gas.”

Palawan 55, the project’s operator, said it would submit for approval a new work program and budget for this phase, including a commitment to drill at least one well within the first two years of the appraisal period.

The ACE Enexor unit recently raised its stake in SC 55 to 75% after a co-contractor, Singapore bourse-listed Century Red Pte. Ltd., transferred its 37.5% interest share to the company as it pulled out from the project. Pryce Gases, Inc. owns the remaining quarter of interest.

The SC 55 Consortium drilled the $23.5-million 9,580-feet Hawkeye-1 well in 2015 when it was operated by Otto Energy, Ltd., an Australia-based oil and gas exploration firm. It revealed natural gas at the crest of the target structure but it was then deemed non-commercial on a stand-alone basis.

Currently, Palawan 55 is undertaking a quantitative interpretation of over 1,000 square-kilometer of recently reprocessed 3D seismic data over the greater Hawkeye area and a large carbonate reef prospect.

On Wednesday, shares in ACE Enexor, Inc. rose by 9.59% to close at P5.94 apiece. — Adam J. Ang