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Angela Macdonald-Smith: Energy Reporter

Shell’s global chief executive Ben van Beurden has pointed to a “broad industrial logic” for the Gladstone liquefied natural gas ventures to find ways to work together more closely, signalling a potential restructuring ahead as the oil major seeks to commercialise its Arrow gas resource.

Mr van Beurden said Shell, which recently acquired the Queensland Curtis LNG project as part of its $70 billion takeover of BG Group, was “absolutely convinced” the group would find a way of developing Arrow gas, which is jointly owned by PetroChina.

He said the takeover of BG had brought about “a different reality” now, while the LNG industry in Queensland more broadly faced challenges on the availability of gas resources.

“There is a broad industrial logic to do something where both Arrow and other ventures will benefit from each other,” Mr van Beurden told journalists at the LNG18 conference in Perth.

The chief executives of Santos and Origin Energy, which are involved in separate LNG projects in Queensland, have also pointed to potential for closer cooperation between the plants to improve project profitability and efficiency.

Mr van Beurden said the industry needed to think “what is the sensible thing to do here”, given the resource potential, the significant LNG market, the need for gas in the domestic market and the infrastructure available to gather, process and export gas.

“If you bring all these components together … surely something will come out of this,” he said.

Mr van Beurden also fully backed floating LNG still as the best way to develop the Browse venture, despite the partners last month ditching plans to use Shell’s FLNG technology and use three large vessels at the field.

He said an investment of that scale in the current commodity price downturn just wasn’t “affordable at this point in time”.

“Is this the moment to lock in this amount of capital? Is the project indeed good enough to want to do that?” he said.

The decision to put Browse on hold was rather driven by the dynamics of the commodity price cycle, rather than any need to reappraise the technology to be used, Mr van Beurden said.

He also signalled it was just a matter of time until Shell sold its remaining 13 per cent stake in Woodside, given it is no longer a strategic investment.

“It’s a matter of figuring out is it worth more to sell or is it worth more to hold,” he said. “The fact that we haven’t been selling it [yet] means that we currently consider it worth more to hold. That may change over time.”

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