Woodside seeks liquefaction site off W. Australia

Rick Wilkinson
OGJ Correspondent

ADELAIDE, Apr. 20 -- Woodside Petroleum is considering building its $10 billion Browse basin LNG liquefaction plant on the Scott coral reef some 420 km from Broome off Kimberley, Western Australia. Woodside is project operator and owns 50%.

Woodside's development director Peter Moore told the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration (APPEA) Conference in Adelaide this week it is considering a lagoon-based plant on the reef, which is midway between Australia and Indonesia.

Although not providing plant cost estimates, Moore said this offshore facility should cost several billion dollars less than an onshore plant.

The company also is considering six offshore sites between Broome and the Buccaneer Archipelago.

The three fields that would serve as feedstock for LNG production—Torosa, Brecknock, and Calliance— have reserves estimated at 20 tcf. First production is slated for 2013-14, which will require the Woodside group to select a plant site by yearend.

Scott Reef would pose a number of environmental problems, as would a land-based plant, but the offshore location would obviate the need for a pipeline to shore.

At the conference World Wildlife Fund (WWF) CEO Greg Bourne opposed Woodside's plans, saying coral reef systems such as Scott Reef represent an important and increasingly threatened marine ecosystem type.

"To construct a facility there would attract global attention; generate global outrage, and become Australia's 'Anwar,' to its shame, regardless of the scale of development," he said.

"We (at WWF) want to see Australian oil and gas operators known for their legacy of sensible development and environmental leadership and not be known as the first to dismantle a coral ecosystem like Scott Reef in the name of purely economic progress."

Bourne, a former CEO of BP Australia, suggested that state and federal governments and industry cooperate to establish a single production hub in the Kimberley region for all the potential Browse basin LNG projects that have been considered in the last few years rather than having each company scatter plants along the pristine Kimberley coast.

He said WWF is by no means antidevelopment or antigas development, but emphasized that companies should not be single-minded in their drive to push through the cheapest economic option. He said there must be a balance among economic, social, and environmental considerations.

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