Woodside shelves Pluto LNG expansion plan

Australia's largest oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum has kept on hold the company's expansion plans for the $15-billion Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) project north-west of Karratha in Western Australia's Pilbara region, due to unsustainable drilling results from the basin.

The Pluto LNG facilities comprise an offshore platform connected to five subsea gas wells, a 4.3-million tonnes per annum capacity LNG plant and loading facilities on the Burrup Peninsula and a 180-km gas pipeline connecting the offshore platform and the plant.

Joint venture partners for the project include Tokyo gas and Kansai Electric, each holding a 5-per cent stake, with the remaining 90 per cent held by Woodside.

Woodside's CEO and managing director Peter Coleman said, ''We've had disappointing exploration drilling results over the past two years, most recently with Ananke-1 in the Carnarvon basin. At this point in time, we do not have sufficient discovered volumes to progress an equity gas expansion.''

The Pluto LNG project with an annual capacity of 4.3 million tonnes, was commissioned in April and the shipment of cargo to customers in the Asia-Pacific region started in May. The plant has achieved a capacity utilisation of 80 per cent in the first two months of operation. An expansion of the plant was planned to enhance the investment returns.

Since 2007, Woodside has drilled 25 exploration wells in pursuit of the Pluto expansion, 11 of which intersected gas.