Melbourne – Woodside Energy Group and its partners on Monday formally committed to working rapidly to pick the best option for developing the Greater Sunrise natural gas field, factoring in for the first time the potential benefits for East Timor.
The Sunrise Joint Venture, which includes majority owner Timor Gap, operator Woodside and the Australian arm of Osaka Gas, said they would move ahead "expeditiously" with a program to select where to send the gas for processing.
Development of the Sunrise fields has been stalled for decades amid disputes over whether the gas should be processed for export at an liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Australia or East Timor or on a floating LNG platform in the Timor Sea.
No deadline was given for selecting the best option, but the joint venture said they aimed to complete the concept selection quickly to ensure the benefits from developing the Sunrise fields would flow.
For the first time, global energy security issues and the rapid development of East Timor are now being factored in, beyond just capital and operating costs, as Timor's main source of income, the Bayu Undan field in the Timor Sea, has dried up.
"The studies will include evaluation of which option provides the most meaningful benefit for the people of Timor-Leste," the joint venture said in a statement.
Woodside Chief Executive Meg O'Neill reiterated that the joint venture would look at new technologies, such a modular LNG, which did not exist when the project partners previously concluded that the best option was to process the gas in Darwin.
East Timor President Jose Ramos-Horta last year stepped up calls for the Australian government to back a gas pipeline from the Sunrise fields to East Timor to help bring the country $50 billion in revenue and $50 billion in development benefits.
[Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Christian Schmollinger.]