Woodside claims on Timor plant `false’

The Australian

Matt Chambers | August 01, 2008

EAST Timor’s opposition Fretilin leader Mari Alkatiri, who helped negotiate the Timor Sea treaty, says his country should do all it could politically and legally to get Woodside Petroleum to pipe gas from Greater Sunrise to an East Timor LNG plant.

The comments came as Australian Resources Minister Martin Ferguson said Woodside and its multinational partners’ should be able to develop the huge Timor Sea project however they see fit.

The Australian revealed yesterday that Woodside had ditched its study of an East Timor LNG plant for the Greater Sunrise gas project. The Perth company is considering developing the project through a Darwin plant or a floating LNG plant.

Mr Alkatiri told The Australian that Woodside’s claims that an East Timor LNG plant was less commercially attractive were “completely false.”

“I am very sad to hear this because I believe it is possible to build the pipeline and to have the LNG plant in Timor Leste.”

As prime minister, he negotiated for East Timor an equal share of gas royalties from the Greater Sunrise fields. “If I were in government I would do everything possible and use legal and political instruments to do it.”

Mr Alkatiri resigned in 2006 amid violence in the country. East Timor Natural Resources State Secretary Alfredo Pires said this week that Woodside’s decision to rule out a local LNG plant would be a “major problem” for the Government.

Mr Ferguson backed Woodside and partners Shell and ConocoPhillips. “The Government has always had the view that the commercialisation of the field is a matter for the joint venture partners to resolve and we have not, and we will not, try to influence their decision in any way,” he said.

While East Timor is closer to the field than Darwin, Woodside says a 3.3km deep trench, among other things, makes the project riskier and more expensive than the other two options.

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