18/11/2011 - 11:33

Santos keen to retain Timor Sea gas fields

18/11/2011 - 11:33

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Santos keen to retain Timor Sea gas fields

Santos says it plans to hold on to its Barossa and Caldita gas fields in the Timor Sea, saying they provide a long-term option to feed the established Darwin LNG plant.

There had been speculation Santos may sell the gas fields to fund its liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects in Queensland and Papua New Guinea.

Santos Western Australia and Northern Territory vice president John Anderson said the company intended to retain the fields, located 300km offshore from Darwin.

The fields are 60 per cent held by ConocoPhillips and 40 per cent by Santos. The US energy giant has a 57 per cent interest in the Darwin LNG plant while Santos has an 11.4 per cent stake.

ConocoPhillips late last year reportedly agreed to sell its stake in the Caldita and Barossa fields, but the transaction fell over after the buyer refused to agree to a condition to feed the gas into the Darwin plant.

Interest in the Bonaparte Basin has risen with Santos last month agreeing to sell its entire working interest in the Evans Shoal gas field, near Barossa and Caldita, to an international major for up to $US350 million ($A351.25 million).

Evans Shoal is a more difficult asset than Caldita Barossa, with its high carbon dioxide content.

It is understood that ConocoPhillips has changed its view on Caldita Barossa in the wake of the Evans Shoal deal, which has re-rated the Bonaparte Basin.

Mr Anderson told reporters after a business function in Perth on Friday that the Evans Shoal deal showed the area was now "much stronger on the radar".

He said Barossa Caldita could be used as "backfill" for the Darwin plant or for an expansion of the facility.

The possibility of gas from Woodside Petroleum's Sunrise project in the Timor Sea being fed into the Darwin plant was now gone, with that company favouring a floating processing concept.

Production from the Bayu Undan fields, which currently feeds the plant, would eventually decline so Barossa Caldita would be an important replacement feedstock, Mr Anderson said.

"We see Barossa Caldita as an important asset for the future," he said. "(It) is going to be more strategic as time goes by."

He also said the Devil Creek gas plant in Western Australia, which is operated by Apache Energy and part-owned by Santos, was on track to produce first gas by the end of this year.

Devil Creek will process gas from the Reindeer field and boost WA's domestic gas supply by 20 per cent.

The joint venture has four customers for Devil Creek gas and wants to attract more.

Demand for Australian gas is projected to quadruple by 2025, driven by Asian export growth and the increasing needs of domestic industrial customers.

Mr Anderson also said Santos expects to make a final decision to proceed with its Fletcher/Finucane oil project in WA by the first quarter of next year.

The project will have an average oil production rate for the first 12 months of between 15,000 and 20,000 barrels per day.

Fletcher/Finucane, which will be developed as a tie-back to the Mutineer floating production vessel, is expected to produce first oil in the second half of 2013.

 

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