The Australian government has appointed former Victorian State Premier Steve Bracks as its special representative for the proposed Greater Sunrise gas project, the majority of which lies in East Timor jurisdiction in the Timor Sea, to help break the stalemate between field operator Woodside Energy and the Government of East Timor over development plans.
Woodside prefers piping the gas 450 km south to an existing LNG hub in Darwin, while East Timor favors piping the gas the shorter distance of 150 km, but across the technically challenging 3,000 m deep Timor Trench to a new LNG plant to be built on its south coast.
Bracks will represent the Australian government and consult with the East Timor Government and other key stakeholders, including the Woodside-led Sunrise JV, said Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.
“The Australian government wants to see the development of Greater Sunrise in a commercially viable way that supports the economic development of East Timor and maximizes the benefits to all parties, consistent with the 2018 Maritime Boundary Treaty [between the two countries],” Wong said.
The appointment is an indication that the Australian government wants to ensure development of the field to East Timor’s financial benefit and block potential moves by China to become involved with the project.
Greater Sunrise field interests are East Timor State company, Timor Gap 56.56%, Woodside 33.44% and Osaka Gas 10%. East Timor has been guaranteed 70-80% of the royalties if the project proceeds.
Greater Sunrise comprises two fields (Troubador and Sunrise) discovered by Woodside in 1974. Development was stalled initially by the poor economics of gas developments at the time at the remote location and then by the maritime boundary dispute between Australia and Indonesia followed by Australia and the newly independent East Timor that was not resolved until 2018.
The fields hold an estimated 5 tcf of gas and 226 million bbl of condensate.
Bracks was Premier of Victoria from 1999 to 2007, following which he worked as a pro-bono governance adviser to then East Timor Prime Minister Xanana Gusmao. He is now chairman of Victorian law firm Maurice Blackburn and chancellor of Victoria University.