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Fourth CA LNG Project Officially Launched by Australian E&P

Although painfully short on details, there was an official announcement last week by Australian energy giant Woodside Energy Ltd.'s U.S. unit in Los Angeles that it plans to file an application with federal, state and local agencies to develop a proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) import project at an unspecified site offshore California.

Woodside Natural Gas Inc. said its LNG plans include asking for what it calls an "offshore sea-to-land pipeline" to bring regasified LNG to shore. Woodside has made more than 2,000 LNG cargo deliveries and later this year is expected to bring China its first LNG import supplies.

Although there were no specific information on costs, in-service dates or location, Woodside Natural Gas President Jane Cutler stressed her parent firm's long track record producing and shipping LNG, mostly between Australia's west coast and Japan.

"Woodside has proven supplies of gas and a proven record of safe delivery," Cutler said in a prepared statement. "We intend to provide a reliable supply of natural gas to curb the spiraling rise in prices. California deserves affordable energy; we can help ensure that happens."

Noting her company's experience and expertise as one of Australia's largest energy companies, Cutler said Woodside looks forward to "working with all regulators, policymakers, agencies and communities to develop a reliable project."

Early reports on Woodside's plans stressed the use of LNG regasification ships that would attach to subsea pipelines, in a way similar to what Excelerate Energy has done with its Louisiana Energy Bridge in the Gulf of Mexico. The project would use a specialize buoy that would connect the ships to a subsea pipeline that could then deliver the gas to the California pipeline grid.

The design would have far less environmental impact than either an offshore gravity-based project or an onshore LNG import terminal and would have a lower development cost. However, it would require specialized ships, which would cost more and would limit its ability to access LNG on the world market.

The Woodside project would supply as much as 10% to 15% of the state's natural gas supply needs, which would be somewhere between 500 MMcf/d and 1 Bcf/d.

Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission, told the The Los Angeles Times that he was briefed on the project by Woodside representatives earlier this month. Peevey speculated that over the next 10 to 15 years California would need two LNG projects. "If you're going to site an LNG terminal, it seems to me it's vastly preferable to have them offshore rather than sited in a very busy harbor," he told the Times.

Woodside's Cutler told the Times that California's coast presents special challenges because of the "extra sensitivity about the environment," and her firm has already begun to meet with environmental group leaders in the state.

A $19 billion company, the largest publicly held oil/gas E&P company in Australia, Woodside is based in Perth on Australia's western coast has offices in Houston and Covington, LA, and has interests in 15 Gulf of Mexico platforms, with six additional ones due to begin operations this year. Woodside operates 11 of the current 15 platforms and its Gulf gas currently averages about 60 MMcf/d.

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