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UpstreamOnline: Teixeira waits on Sunrise debate

By Upstream staff

A debate on a pact vital to pushing ahead with the development of Greater Sunrise, in the Timor Sea, will go ahead in East Timor’s parliament in about a month, the country’s Energy Minister Jose Teixeira said today.

Oil and gas producers have said they are waiting for the deal to be ratified before committing to development of the Greater Sunrise area, estimated to hold 8 trillion cubic feet of gas and up to 300 million barrels of condensate.

About 20% of Greater Sunrise lies in a Joint Petroleum Production Area (JPDA) between Australia and East Timor, with the rest in what Australia claims is its exclusive jurisdiction.

Teixeira told Reuters in an interview it was not his place as part of the executive branch to forecast when parliament would take up the agreement.

But he added: “At least it won’t within a month because parliament goes on recess after tomorrow for a month… So at least not within a month, perhaps not two.”

Under the JPDA, 90% of royalty revenues go to East Timor and 10% to Australia, while the new agreement would share remaining revenues 50-50, potentially delivering up to $14.5 billion to impoverished East Timor over 20 years.

Australia has been putting off its own ratification waiting for East Timor to act first.

Greater Sunrise operator Woodside Petroleum froze the $5 billion project in 2004 while waiting for Canberra and Dili to iron out their differences.

Another sticking point has been whether to build a liquefied natural gas processing plant for Greater Sunrise in East Timor or to use a plant being built in the Northern Territory, which Teixeira said was out of the respective governments’ hands.

“It’s a commercial question for the developers of Greater Sunrise and we’ve been discussing both with the developers of Greater Sunrise as well as with the investors, other third party foreign investors,” he said.

Asked if that issue might hold up a start to the project, Teixeira said: “We’re working towards a timeframe of getting all the necessary technical studies done. There’s no reason why it should hold it up even more than any other option.”

As well as Woodside, Greater Sunrise’s stakeholders include ConocoPhillips, Shell and Japan’s Osaka Gas. Woodside is 34%-owned by Shell.

East Timor is in the process of awarding some offshore oil and gas deals in areas it controls and is near signing production sharing contracts with Italy’s Eni and India’s Reliance Industries, who won exploration rights earlier this year.

“The companies have been notified … and we expect in the first week of September to be signing the production sharing contracts with the two winning bidders,” he said.

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