Woodside, BHP join forces in North Africa


Australia's Woodside Energy Ltd. and BHP Petroleum Ltd. Thursday have launched a long-term cooperative agreement in North Africa.

Woodside will pay BHP $22.5 million to take up a 15% stake in the Algerian Ohanet risk service contract (RSC); a 50% interest in the Boukhechba production sharing contract (PSC); and a 50% holding in the Ouest Hassi R�Mel gas study agreement.

The deal is subject to approvals from the Algerian government and Sonatrach, the state oil and gas company.

Woodside said the two oil companies also will consider joint work on further prospects in Algeria and "future opportunities" in North Africa.

The Ouest Hassi R�Mel gas study agreement, inked in November 1999, grants BHP rights to seismic and well data covering 84,000 sq km north and west of Algeria�s giant Hassi R�Mel gas field and, according to Woodside, puts the companies in a "strong position to pursue future exploration licences in that area."

The collaborative deal with BHP, according to Woodside Managing Director John Akehurst, is consistent with Woodside's strategy of international growth through the "development of self-sustaining businesses in a small number of countries."

In July BHP signed a RSC with Sonatrach to develop four gas and condensate reservoirs in the Ohanet region. The contract commits its joint venturers to production of 710 MMcfd of wet gas. First flow is planned for October 2003 with a peak liquids production rate of 58,000 b/d. The Ohanet reservoirs hold proven and probable reserves of more than 3.4 tcf of pipeline-quality gas, 107 million bbl of condensate, and 116 million bbl of liquefied petroleum gas.

Following approvals, interests in the RSC will be BHP (45%); Japan Ohanet Oil and Gas Co. (30%); Woodside (15%); and Petrofac Resources (10%).

Woodside said that as part of its "wider relationship" with BHP, it will also take part in next year�s exploration drilling program in the Boukhechba PSC.

Meanwhile, the Western Australian State Government approved Woodside's $2.4 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) expansion project, paving the way for the North West Shelf Joint Venture partners to ask their boards for commitments.

The North West Shelf JV has spent more than $100 million preparing for the expansion, which involves a fourth LNG processing train at the onshore gas plant on the Burrup Peninsula.

Plans for the expansion include the construction of a 4.2 million tonnes/yr processing facility and a 42-in. trunkline linking the plant and the JV's gas fields 130 km offshore.

Site works for the project will start in January, and are expected to take about 9 months.

The JV has scheduled a 38-month program for the engineering, procurement, construction, and commissioning of the fourth LNG train. Woodside will be operator of the North West Shelf JV.

The six partners in the North West Shelf Joint Venture are Woodside, BHP, BP, Chevron Corp., Japan Australia LNG (MIMI) Pty. Ltd., and a branch of the Royal Dutch/Shell Group.

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