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Voelte appointed Nexus chairman
Don Voelte has been appointed Nexus chairman. Picture: John Mokrzycki/ The West Australian

Nexus Energy chief executive Lucio Della Martina has called on his one-time mentor Don Voelte to take on the chairmanship and help build the fledgling company into an LNG producer.

The surprise appointment yesterday marks Mr Voelte’s return to the oil and gas game, little more than a year since retiring as managing director of Woodside Petroleum where his main legacy was the Pluto LNG project development, overseen by Mr Della Martina.

“I am delighted Don agreed to accept the role,” Mr Della Martina, who was travelling back from Europe last night, told WestBusiness.

Mr Voelte will take over as Nexus non-executive chairman on October 11, succeeding the long-serving Michael Fowler.

It will mark another chapter in the restructure of Nexus’ senior ranks since Mr Della Martina was appointed chief executive in May.

It is expected to be followed by Foreign Investment Review Board approval of Nexus’ deal to sell an 80 per cent stake in its Crux liquids project in the Browse Basin to Royal Dutch Shell, in return for help to commercialise the gas through a floating LNG development.

Mr Della Martina has already declared that he wants Crux to be developed as a stand-alone FLNG operation, while Shell is contemplating using Crux gas as backfill for its nearby Prelude venture, which is already in development.

Mr Voelte remains chief executive of Seven West Media, publisher of The West Australian, although he flagged in June that he did not expect to hold the full-time role for the “long term”, a statement interpreted by analysts as a period of up to two years. Mr Voelte would not comment yesterday.

Mr Voelte, as then-Woodside chief executive, tasked Mr Della Martina with developing Pluto shortly after the eponymous gas field’s discovery in 2005. Woodside made a final investment decision on Pluto’s development in 2007.

Pluto became only the third LNG operation in Australia when it produced first cargoes of the liquefied gas early this year.

The final cost of $15 billion was 25 per cent over budget and first output more than one year late, giving rise to expectations that the current phase of LNG developments led by Gorgon and the Queensland coal seam ventures will strike similar headwinds.
Nexus shares closed unchanged at 12.5¢.