Chevron: 'Gorgon LNG Partners Still Fully Committed to Project'

Dow Jones Newswires

PERTH (Dow Jones Newswires), October 14, 2008

Chevron Corp. said Tuesday that it remains committed to its multi-billion dollar Gorgon liquefied natural gas venture offshore Western Australia, despite uncertainty generated by the global financial crisis.

"Chevron and its Gorgon joint venture partners are fully committed to the project," a Chevron spokeswoman told Dow Jones Newswires.

Responding to analyst reports speculating about the impact of the financial turmoil on Australia's expanding LNG sector, the spokeswoman said that Chevron is still hiring new workers for Gorgon.

"The Chevron-operated Gorgon and Wheatstone projects continue to make good progress, with both ramping up staff and contractor positions as we speak," she said.

Gorgon has more than 700 people employed and this is expected to increase to 1200 next year," she said.

"We're in a long-term business and Gorgon is a 40 year-plus project."

The Gorgon partners - Chevron with 50%, and Royal Dutch Shell PLC and ExxonMobil Corp. each with 25% - recently approved A$1 billion in funding for works needed to take the long-delayed venture to the final investment decision or FID stage.

"In the near future we plan to issue invitations to bid on contracts that will run into the billions of dollars," the spokeswoman said.

But one energy analyst, who did not want to be identified, said that many Australian resources projects will be delayed because of the financial crisis.

"Companies will have to re-assess the availability of credit for any project - big or small," he said.

"It is not just LNG, the game has also changed for oil and mining projects. Boards will be sitting back and waiting to see if they can do projects better or cheaper," he said.

Perth-based Woodside Petroleum Ltd., which is building the A$12 billion Pluto LNG venture, due to start production in late 2010, says it has scaled-back recruitment because of the global uncertainty and lower oil prices.

A Woodside spokesman denied this amounts to a hiring freeze. "We've put some new roles on hold to ensure we only recruit for real positions, for real projects, that deliver value to shareholders," he told Dow Jones Newswires.

Chevron hopes the Gorgon partners will sanction the project after Australian state and federal governments approve the project's expanded scope, and following the completion of Front-End Engineering and Design work.

"We're still on track to complete FEED in 2009," she said.

So far the U.S. oil major hasn't given a capital cost estimate for the enlarged project, which envisages an initial 15 million metric tons per year of LNG.

But some analysts believe the price could top US $25 billion.

Chevron's 100%-owned Wheatstone venture is at a less advanced stage than Gorgon, with Chevron planning to begin FEED studies next year.

The company has shortlisted three sites on Western Australia's Pilbara coast for Wheatstone's LNG plant and a decision on the location is due by the end of the year, the spokeswoman said.

Wheatstone has a workforce of 80 people and this is expected to double in 2009, she said.

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