Browse project still facing obstacles despite WA poll result

Woodside Petroleum's $40 billion Browse gas project looks less likely to go ahead despite the re-election of its biggest supporter, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett.

Woodside Petroleum's $40 billion Browse gas project looks less likely to go ahead despite the re-election of its biggest supporter, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett.

Some analysts believe the controversial proposal to build a gas plant at James Price Point, near Broome, is not economically viable due to spiralling costs and challenges securing labour.

They expect Woodside's final investment decision on Browse to be delayed at least another year, meaning state government approvals for the project will lapse.

But Woodside is sticking to its schedule for a final decision by June.

"The final investment decision target for Browse for mid-this year has not changed," a Woodside spokeswoman said on Tuesday. But the company declined to comment on whether the Coalition's WA election victory or a swing to the Greens in the Kimberley would affect its plans.

"We're still not making any comment with regards to the election at this time," the spokeswoman said.

A four-way race in the Kimberley is tipped to run until Saturday.

After being re-elected at the weekend, Mr Barnett reiterated his stance on the Kimberley gas project, saying it would provide great economic and social benefits.

Federal Special Minister of State Gary Gray weighed into the Browse debate on Tuesday, backing Woodside's joint-venture partner Royal Dutch Shell's preference for a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) operation, rather than an onshore gas processing plant.

He said the use of floating technology was an opportunity for WA to broaden its expertise in cutting edge technology.

Commonwealth Bank analysts expect a final investment decision on Browse to be delayed at least 18 months.

"Market speculation regarding the ultimate choice between development concepts of a project at James Price Point versus a tieback to North West Shelf is likely to continue until a targeted final investment decision in the first half of 2013," the CBA analysts said.

CBA said Browse was the key driver in terms of shareholder value for Woodside over the next 12 to 18 months. Woodside has so far spent about $1 billion on Browse.

Last week global oil and gas giant BP refused to reveal whether it wanted the Browse gas project built onshore or offshore using floating technology.

BP is a joint-venture partner in the project with BHP Billiton, Shell, Mitsubishi and Mitsui.

AAP

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