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Woodside halts Australian LNG project

Australia's largest independent energy company blames economic and market factors for decision.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   March 23, 2016 at 6:59 AM
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PERTH, Australia, March 23 (UPI) -- Australian energy company Woodside said it was putting a hold on the development of its Browse liquefied natural gas project because of market conditions.

Woodside said that, even with front-end engineering and design work completed, weak economic and market conditions meant it was necessary to put a hold on the $50 billion facility.

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"We have undertaken a comprehensive and rigorous process to assess all elements of the development," Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said in a statement. "The decision represents a disciplined approach to large-scale capital investment and is consistent with our requirements for a development concept to be commercially robust across a range of scenarios."

Woodside, the largest independent oil and gas company in Australia, said that its financial position was damaged in part because of historically low crude oil prices. Net income of around $26 million last year was down roughly 90 percent from the $2.4 billion recorded in 2014.

The Australian company said it was slated to make further investment decisions on Browse later this year, but would now work with its partners on a new work program and budget.

"We will use the additional time to pursue further capital efficiencies for Browse," Coleman said.

Royal Dutch Shell in 2014 sold an 8 percent stake in the Wheatstone gas project in Australia so it could better focus on Browse and similar facilities in the country. In February, Woodside named former Shell Executive Vice President Ann Pickard as a non-executive member of its board.

Woodside, Shell and BP hold the most shares in the Browse, alongside minority partners in an Asian energy sector looking to Australia as a source for energy. Chevron this week shipped its inaugural cargo of LNG from its Gorgon project in Australia to a Chinese energy company.

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