The Pluto field, which was discovered by Woodside in April this year in permit WA-350-P, is about 190 kilometers northwest of Karratha and 90 kilometers west of the Woodside-operated Goodwyn production platform on the North West Shelf.
Woodside's Chief Executive Officer, Don Voelte, said Woodside had intensified and accelerated its studies and appraisal program to commercialize Pluto due to a forecast strong LNG demand window opening between 2010 and 2012 in the Asia-Pacific and North America.
"Our 100% ownership of the field will enable fast yet rigorous decision making," Mr. Voelte said.
"We are now confident that we have sufficient gas to justify an LNG plant with a capacity of five to seven million tons a year to create enduring value for Woodside's shareholders and for the citizens of Australia.
"Woodside's core competencies in LNG project management and operations on the North West Shelf provide the key ingredients for meeting the market window for LNG supplies at the end of this decade."
Mr. Voelte said that established customers in Asia and potential customers in North America had shown strong interest in Pluto because of its potential size, its commercial flexibility due to Woodside's 100% ownership, and Woodside's acknowledged LNG experience as operator of the world-class North West Shelf Venture.
"These attributes are backed by Australia's stable political, legal and fiscal framework," Mr. Voelte said.
He said Woodside expected substantive progress on gas sales agreements by year end.
Capital expenditure is expected to involve several billion dollars and will be refined with front-end engineering which is scheduled to begin in November. With a final investment decision planned for mid-2007, LNG shipments could begin from late 2010.
Woodside has allocated more than A$65 million this year for development studies, marketing and an accelerated field appraisal program including two wells by December.
Development options for the Pluto LNG Project include an offshore production platform, an offshore trunkline, up to two LNG processing trains, loading jetty and associated infrastructure. Concept selection and refinement of development options will be done concurrently with field appraisal work.
"The onshore plant will initially be supplied from the Pluto field but could also cater for other Woodside regional gas," Mr. Voelte said.
"We have assessed several plant sites and the Western Australian Department of Industry and Resources has reserved land for the Pluto development within the Burrup Industrial Estate near Karratha."
Mr. Voelte said Pluto was being referred today for state and federal government environmental review and an application for major project facilitation would also be lodged today with the Australian Government.
Project staff would immediately begin discussions with community groups and traditional custodians on Aboriginal heritage and environmental assessment, with particular emphasis on protecting rock art and cultural values of the Burrup Peninsula.
Mr. Voelte said discussions had also been under way for some time with providers of LNG technology and tenders were being prepared for the lead contractor for engineering, procurement and construction management of the LNG plant.
The Pluto LNG Project will be led by Lucio Della Martina, a senior Woodside executive with more than 20 years' international oil and gas experience covering operations, economics, planning, and LNG marketing.
Mr. Della Martina and his team of engineers, marketers, commercial analysts, environmental scientists, and reservoir specialists reports directly to the CEO.
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