Melbourne – Woodside Energy Group said for the first time on Thursday it was willing to consider sending gas from the huge Greater Sunrise field to East Timor, instead of its long-preferred option of Darwin in Australia.
Woodside, operator of Sunrise in the waters between East Timor and northwest Australia, has argued it would be cheaper to develop the resource by sending the gas to Darwin, even though it is farther away, as it has port and liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure.
But the Timor government has been pressing for an LNG plant to be built on its shores to ramp up development of its small economy, which is about to lose its main source of revenue, the depleted Bayu Undan gas field.
Woodside Chief Executive Meg O'Neill said on Thursday new technology is available, including modular LNG, that did not exist when developing a project in Timor was previously evaluated.
"So the Timorese are very keen to have that development in country. And we recognise it's an important national project for them," O'Neill told analysts at a briefing. "So we feel like it's appropriate to reopen the concept evaluation, understand the technologies, understand the technical challenges."
She did not discuss cost estimates but said East Timor could seek outside funding to help pay for the infrastructure it would need to build from scratch.
"Timor Leste has a lot of international friends, and international friends may want to help with some of that infrastructure that doesn't exist today in Timor that would exist if we went to Darwin," O'Neill said.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta said in September Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and China could be interested in investing in the gas field, discovered in 1974, which holds 5.3 trillion cubic feet of gas and 226 million barrels of condensate.
[Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by William Mallard.]