EAST Timor could leave the Sunrise gas and oil field in the Timor Sea undeveloped if Australian company Woodside refuses to build a pipeline to Timor's south coast.
"The Government is looking at all options to develop a thriving onshore petroleum industry," East Timorese Secretary of State Agio Pereira said yesterday.
East Timor is at loggerheads with Woodside, which has ruled out building the 150km pipeline in favour of building either a 500km pipeline to Darwin or a floating liquefied natural gas plant over Sunrise.
If the parties cannot reach agreement by 2013, Sunrise will remain untapped.
It is believed East Timor regards securing the plant as an issue of national sovereignty that is crucial to the fledgling country's national interest.
Mr Pereira said 250 hectares on East Timor's south coast had been set aside to build a liquefied natural gas plant.
East Timor and Malaysian oil giant Petronas had also completed "comprehensive" bathymetric mapping of the coast's sea bed, he said.
"All findings conclude the Timor-Leste option is a much more commercially viable, economically sound and technically feasible option, holds much less risk and much more benefit than Woodside's original assertions," Mr Pereira said.
Woodside said it and its joint venture partners, Royal Dutch/Shell, Osaka Gas and ConocoPhillips, were "finalising a development theme selection that will accord with key treaty requirements", a spokeswoman said.
"Following selection of the preferred concept, Woodside will work with the Timor Leste and Australian governments to secure the timely approval of a field development plan to develop Sunrise.
"The development of Sunrise will deliver significant social and economic benefits including petroleum revenues, taxes and training and employment opportunities to both Australia and Timor-Leste," she said.
Yesterday, a spokesman for the East Timorese Natural Resources Ministry told Reuters that the Government was considering inviting Petronas to develop the field if there was no agreement with Woodside.
But it is believed the East Timorese Government, which has committed to acting in "good faith" under the treaty with Australia, would prefer to strike a deal with Woodside.
Woodside shares closed yesterday down 16 at $48.42.
- with REUTERS