02 June 2010

East Timor blasts Woodside Petroleum over Sunrise plans

Agence France-Presse, Updated: 6/1/2010 East Timor on Tuesday accused Australian company Woodside Petroleum of trampling its sovereign rights as it again rejected plans to process Timor Sea gas on a floating platform.

Partners in the Sunrise gas field joint venture including Woodside and Shell submitted a report outlining their preference for a floating platform to the East Timorese government in May.

But East Timorese government spokesman Agio Pereira issued a statement accusing Woodside of ignoring Dili's sovereign interests as enshrined in East Timor's treaties with Australia over joint exploitation of the area.

"Woodside and the joint-venture partners can only join and assist the two countries in implementing a policy for the Timor Sea when and if they, as operators, fully understand, accept and comply with the overarching principles established by the treaties in force," he said.

"Authorised drilling of petroleum in the Timor Sea offshore, and the integrated processing of it, shall promote long-term investment in the territories and the peoples of Timor Leste and Australia, and not only Australia," he added, using East Timor's formal name.

"The decision on how the peoples' resources and seas should be best integrated and developed is a sovereign decision, not a commercial trade."

He said the Sunrise joint venture's preference for a floating platform instead of a permanent processing plant in East Timor smacked of self-interest.

"Woodside has chosen the best commercial advantage for Woodside and the jv partners," he said.

A floating platform carried an unacceptably "high level of uncertainty and risk", he added.

Woodside chief executive Don Voelte told reporters in Dili in May that the proposal for a floating LNG plant was still up for discussion.

But he added that while it would be technically feasible to pipe the gas to an onshore facility in East Timor, a floating plant made more economic sense.

The Sunrise Joint Venture comprises Woodside (33.4 percent), ConocoPhillips (30 percent), Shell (26.6 percent) and Osaka Gas (10 percent).

Australia and East Timor have agreed to split projected multi-billion dollar revenues 50-50 from the Greater Sunrise gas field.

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