Woodside to Retire Pluto LNG Expansion Rig Early; Shares Fall

SYDNEY (Dow Jones Newswires), Oct. 20, 2011

Woodside Petroleum confirmed Thursday that it will release early one of the two rigs exploring for gas to expand its A$14.9 billion Pluto project, but said the move won't drastically set back its exploration efforts.

Australia's second biggest oil company behind BHP Billiton wants to ship liquefied natural gas from the foundation stage of its Pluto project in March. It doesn't have enough gas to expand the project to two LNG production units and has been exploring for more
offshore Western Australia state. The company is also talking to potential third party gas suppliers.

It's exploring for gas with two rigs: the Maersk Discoverer and the Ocean America. A Woodside spokesman confirmed a report in Thursday's Australian Financial Review newspaper that the Maersk Discoverer will be released early in 2012 rather than at the end of the year as originally planned.

"It's done the work we needed it do in the Carnarvon Basin for the time being and deep water exploration will now be conducted by the
Ocean America," the spokesman said.

"It certainly not a drastic cut back," he said, adding that Woodside continues to pursue both equity gas and third party gas options for an
expanded Pluto.

Under former Chief Executive Don Voelte, Woodside pursued an aggressive expansion timetable for Pluto. Since he took the reins in
May, Voelte's replacement Peter Coleman has taken a more conservative approach, having already announced a six-month delay to completion of Pluto's foundation stage.

At 0340 GMT, Woodside shares were down 4%, underperforming a broader market down 1.6%. Investors may also be concerned about a 24% overhang of Woodside held by Shell. Woodside's largest shareholder sold part of its stake last year and vowed not to start selling any more until November unless it gets an offer for more than 3% of its holding in company.

Copyright (c) 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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