Thailand's PTTEP hopes to sort out the ownership structure of its Timor Sea assets, including the big Cash-Maple gas fields, by the end of the year but says it is open to retaining a minority stake.
In the company's first comments on the proposed sell-down, PTTEP deputy chief executive Montri Rawanchaikul told the Australian Petroleum Production & Exploration Association conference in Perth yesterday the scale of Cash-Maple's development meant the company needed a partner.
PTTEP is yet to reveal the size of Cash-Maple's resource, which is expected to be several trillion cubic feet of gas. Its location, 680km west of Darwin, makes it a potential gas source for the ConocoPhillips-led Darwin LNG consortium.
"We would look to conclude the process this year," he said.
Whether the process results in PTTEP selling out completely or just a majority stake remained to be seen, he added.
PPTEP has repeatedly said it wants to begin front-end engineering and design work on Cash-Maple this year as part of a path to first production by 2019.
Mr Rawanchaikul said the development options were floating LNG or a land-based option, and agreed that Darwin was the logical onshore location.
The sales process includes the high-profile but less important Montara oil field, which began production in June. PTTEP bought the in-development Montara project off the Gorgon Martin-run Coogee Resources in 2008 but attracted global headlines a year later when a well leaked and caused an explosion and one of Australia's worst offshore environmental disasters.
The opportunity to buy Cash-Maple adds to the intrigue over how ConocoPhillips and its Darwin LNG partners plan to keep the one-train plant full of gas beyond this decade.
ConocoPhillips and partner Karoon Gas are busy drilling permits in the Browse Basin to determine how much gas is contained in their Greater Poseidon project area, though a Darwin development would require a long and costly pipeline.
ConocoPhillips and one of its Darwin LNG partners, Santos, are also part of the consortium that owns the Caldita-Barossa fields 270km north of Darwin, which could also become Bayu-Undan's replacement.