Subject: Woodside 'walk-out' on gas project
<http://www.theage.com.au> The Age
Woodside 'walk-out' on gas project
May 20, 2010
TWO Woodside executives failed in an attempt to deliver the company's voluminous development plan for a floating liquefied natural gas platform above the Timor Sea's Greater Sunrise field to the regulator of East Timor's petroleum industry at an acrimonious meeting in Dili.
The independent National Petroleum Authority (NPA) has demanded that Woodside apologise for the behaviour of the executives at yesterday's meeting.
The authority's president, Gualdino da Silva, told BusinessDay that Woodside executives Jon Ozturgut and Brendan Augustin left the meeting without saying goodbye or shaking hands after he told them he could not accept the plan, prompting extraordinary scenes outside.
''It was embarrassing,'' Mr da Silva said.
Mr Ozturgut, senior vice-president for Sunrise LNG Development, and Mr Augustin, Woodside's in-country East Timor manager, left the folders on a table in the authority's office at the Prime Minister's complex in Dili.
But Mr da Silva said he asked his security guard to return the folders to the men after they had got into their vehicle outside the complex.
Mr da Silva said Mr Ozturgut pushed the folders back out of the vehicle's window.
The guard then threw the folders back on to a seat in the vehicle through the driver's door.
The vehicle left with the folders inside.
A Woodside spokesman described the meeting as ''cordial'' and said there was no walkout. He declined to comment on the demand for an apology.
Mr da Silva said he explained to Mr Ozturgut and Mr Augustin at the meeting that he could not accept the plan to develop a floating platform when, under the Greater Sunrise joint venture agreement, the stakeholders, including East Timor and Australia, had to consider all three possible development proposals. These included piping the gas to either a processing plant on East Timor or to an existing plant in Darwin.
''I told them the NPA was not in a position to accept the folders and they must take them back because they have not done all their homework,'' Mr da Silva said.
The setback for Woodside follows angry condemnation by East Timor's leaders of the company's announcement last month that it had decided to develop a floating platform above the field. The leaders say they will approve the project only if the gas is piped to East Timor, which would boost economic development in the tiny nation of 1 million people.
But Woodside chief executive officer Don Voelte has insisted that under an agreement signed only 2½ years ago, East Timor cannot walk away from the multibillion-dollar deal.
The NPA, which regulates the Timor Sea joint development area for East Timor and Australia, told Woodside last month it had failed to comply with its legal obligations before announcing its decision to build one of the world's first floating LNG platforms.
The East Timorese government has lodged a complaint with the ASX claiming that Woodside has not given the public and press accurate information about the Greater Sunrise project.