Woodside: LNG Buyers Prepared for Higher Prices
by AFX News Limited
May 01, 2008
Australia's largest oil and gas producer,
Woodside Petroleum Ltd., said on Thursday buyers were
prepared to pay higher prices for liquefied natural gas (LNG) as crude oil
continues to surge.
Woodside Chairman Michael Chaney told shareholders at the company's annual
meeting in Perth that increasing demand for LNG would underpin the company's
growth for decades.
"Consumption is expected to continue to grow at a rate in excess of 2
percent a year to 2030, with the economies of Asia and the Indian sub-continent
again providing the bulk of that growth," Chaney said.
LNG prices have soared in recent weeks as the price of crude oil climbed to
over $100 a barrel.
Chinese utility Guangdong Dapeng LNG announced last week it had bought some
spot cargoes at around $14 per British thermal unit (BTU).
Woodside, 34 percent owned by the Royal Dutch Shell group, has been
criticised for selling LNG too cheaply.
In 2003, the company and its partners in Australia's first LNG project, the
North-West Shelf venture, agreed to supply China with 3.3 million tonnes of LNG
a year at $3.14 per BTU for a 25-year period.
Apart from the Woodside-operated North-West Shelf project, which started
production nearly 20 years ago, the company has other projects in the pipeline,
including its 100 percent owned A$12 billion ($11.2 billion) Pluto project which
will also exploit natural gas reserves off the north west Australian coast.
"Our Pluto LNG project will begin deliveries in just 32 months and we are
aiming to begin construction of another two developments - Browse and Sunrise -
within the next few years," Chaney said.
Woodside and its partners in the Browse and Sunrise projects are yet to
sanction development but Chaney said Asian buyers will be keen to source LNG
from the two projects because of their proximity to markets while the company
had already developed a reputation as a reliable supplier.
Australia's position close to the fast-growing Asian markets is drawing
other LNG players to the nation including the UK's BG Group Plc, one of the
world's largest LNG traders.
On Wednesday BG announced a A$12.9 billion cash bid for Australia's Origin
Energy Ltd. which has large coal seam gas reserves in the north-eastern state of
Earlier this year BG invested A$660 million in coal seam producer Queensland
Gas Ltd and announced plans for an LNG joint venture near Gladstone on the
BG's bid for Origin is seen as part of a strategy to cash in on growing
demand for LNG in the Asia Pacific region.
Chaney told Woodside shareholders that developing LNG projects as well as
oil projects within the company's portfolio present challlenges.
"To put it simply, developing major resource projects is becoming an
increasingly expensive proposition.
"Scarcity of labour and the increasing cost of materials are now the
greatest challenges to your company's growth and profitability," he said.
Chaney said in spite of the current cost and labour challenges, Woodside has
managed to increase production in the past three years, albeit at a rate lower
than originally hoped.
He said for 2008 the company is targeting production of between 80 million
to 86 million barrels, up from 71 million barrels in 2007.
The target is the same as a production forecast made in February when
Woodside reported a 28 percent fall in 2007 net profit to A$1.0 billion as asset
sale losses, a strong Australian dollar and increased exploration costs
outweighed the benefits of higher commodity prices.
Chaney said Woodside, like the broader energy industry, is a significant
beneficiary of rising oil prices but it is preparing in case prices drop.
"Our project economics are based on a more conservative outlook and,
importantly, we are determined to ensure that our costs are well controlled so
that, if and when prices fall, we remain profitable," he said.
(US$1 = A$1.07)
Copyright 2008 AFX News Limited. All Rights Reserved.
Pluto LNG Project
Woodside Petroleum Ltd.; Tokyo Gas; Kansai Electric
Burrup, Western Australia Australia