WA gets bigger slice Torosa gas field

Peter Klinger and Phoebe Wearne
Boundary change: The Browse Basin gas filed. Picture: Supplied

The WA Government says as much as half of the biggest field that makes up Woodside Petroleum's Browse floating LNG project could be in State waters, potentially providing it with major bargaining muscle in the battle with the Woodside-led consortium over domestic gas supplies and a jobs-creating supply base.

A month after "accepting the realism" the Woodside Browse project would be developed as FLNG rather than onshore, Premier Colin Barnett yesterday gained the much-needed fillip after the National Offshore Petroleum Titles Administrator redrew Commonwealth-State boundaries covering the Torosa field off the Kimberley coast.

Torosa is the biggest of three fields that make up the Woodside Browse project's combined resource of 15.9 trillion cubic feet of gas and 436 million barrels of condensate. It is also regarded as the most complex and therefore expensive to develop, and the only one of three to cross into WA waters.

Under the historic boundaries, the Commonwealth and the consortium argued as little as 8 per cent of Torosa was in State waters and that the Barnett Government could therefore not stand in the way of the overall project's development, despite Mr Barnett's long-held opposition to FLNG and claim WA controlled up to 20 per cent of Torosa.

The Commonwealth last year waived the onshore processing condition on its five retention leases but WA is yet to follow suit with its two leases.

State Mines and Petroleum Minister Bill Marmion told Parliament yesterday the NOPTA revision could result in "as much as 50 per cent of the Torosa field (being) in WA waters".

"That's great news for WA," Mr Marmion said. "It means we have a greater percentage of the field and the royalties percentage will then be a lot greater to WA than the Commonwealth. It has great implications for us and indeed it does have implications for all the joint venture parties."

Mr Barnett later said WA would work "co-operatively with the Commonwealth and the joint venture partners to bring the project into production".

The Premier did not discuss whether he planned to use the potential increase in bargaining power to force the Woodside consortium to agree to a favourable domestic gas deal or at the very least commit to development of a supply base to service the Browse Basin to maximise the volume of project-related onshore jobs.

Woodside would not comment.