WOODSIDE Petroleum has reported a 20 per cent increase in first-quarter revenue as higher oil prices offset output declines due to cyclones, and says it expects to produce liquefied natural gas from its $14.9 billion Pluto project in the coming days.
Pluto is a game-changer for Australia’s biggest pure-play oil company as it will roughly double its LNG exports at a time when customers in Japan, South Korea and China are paying top dollar for cleaner-burning fuels.
Woodside also said it had sold a stake in a gas permit to South Africa’s Sasol that could contain resources to support an expansion of the Pluto project, and that it had also discovered more oil at its Laverda prospect off the West Australian coast.
Higher oil and LNG prices helped push Woodside’s revenue for the three months to March 31 to $US1.2bn ($1.15bn), up from $US998 million a year earlier.
Woodside won’t release profit figures until its first-half results briefing in August.
Quarterly production was down 10 per cent to 14.1 million barrels of oil equivalent from 15.6 million after tropical cyclone activity in Western Australia shut projects including the North West Shelf LNG terminal.
Pluto was most recently scheduled to ship its first LNG cargo last month, so investors were relieved Woodside maintained its 2012 production guidance of 56 million to 60 million barrels of oil equivalent, and another 17 million to 21 million BOE from Pluto. “The operations team is well into the start-up sequence with first LNG anticipated in the coming days,” Woodside said. “LNG vessels are being readied to arrive at Dampier.”
The company doesn’t have enough gas to expand Pluto and said its next exploration well, Vucko-1, would be drilled in the current quarter.
Perth-based Woodside said it had sold 25 per cent of a gas permit in the Ragnar hub off the coast of Western Australia to Sasol, without disclosing a price. Talks with other gas resource owners that could process their gas through an expanded Pluto are continuing.
An oil well called Norton-1 designed to appraise the Woodside Laverda field had encountered oil and gas, underpinning a recoverable resource of more than 100 million BOE, Woodside said.
Woodside shares closed 49c higher at $35.04.