Woodside open to Singapore stake in LNG facilities

SINGAPORE, March 6 Thu Mar 6, 2008 6:11am GMT

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SINGAPORE, March 6 (Reuters) - Woodside Petroleum Ltd (WPL.AX) is open to investment from Singapore's sovereign wealth funds in the physical facilities of its LNG projects, the chief executive of the oil and gas producer, Don Voelte, said on Thursday.

"We haven't at this point gotten into that but I suspect that we are very open to talking to Singapore about such investments," said Voelte, when asked about sovereign funds such as Temasek Holdings [TEM.UL] taking equity stakes.

Woodside had said in February it had no plans to issue stakes in its Browse and Sunrise liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects to customers.

But Voelte said now this was just limited to the ownership of the reserves themselves.

"We are not willing to discuss who owns the reserves in the ground, to give up equity at this point in our reserves.

"What we still are willing to take investment is in the physical facilities to build liquefaction plants, in ships, terminals," Voelte said.

Voelte was speaking at a briefing on the company's proposal to supply LNG to Singapore's planned LNG terminal. Woodside is one of five companies shortlisted to act as an aggregator for the terminal with planned capacity of 3 million tonnes.

"For us, (we are keen) because shipping LNG is expensive and Singapore for us is very close," Voelte said.

A return trip from the North West Shelf venture to Singapore took an average 9 days, compared with 20 days to Japan and roughly 70 days to the U.S. East Coast.

Singapore is due to pick the aggregator for its first LNG terminal in the second quarter. Woodside, if successful in its bid, would provide the gas from any of its projects but had earmarked the Browse field for this purpose.

Voelte reiterated a final investment decision for its Browse project off Western Australia, where the firm has drilled 13 wells, was due by 2010 and was due to start between 2013 and 2015.

The Woodside-operated North West Shelf LNG venture produces about 12 million tonnes of LNG a year, to rise to 16 million tonnes by the end of 2008 following a fifth-train expansion.

Total LNG output from Woodside-operated LNG projects will rise to more than 20 million tonnes a year when the new Pluto field comes onstream by end-2010.

Last year, Woodside, 34 percent owned by Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), sold a 5 percent equity stake in the Pluto LNG project each to Tokyo Gas (9351.T) and Kansai Electric (9503.T). (Reporting by Annika Breidthardt; Editing by Ben Tan)