Woodside Considers Southeast Asian Expansion After Myanmar Deal

Woodside Petroleum Ltd., operator of the A$15 billion ($15.6 billion) Pluto liquefied natural gas project in Australia, is considering expanding in Southeast Asia after reaching an exploration accord in Myanmar.

Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer expects a drilling campaign with Daewoo International Corp. to begin in about 2014, Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman said today in a Bloomberg Television interview. Woodside will acquire a 40 percent stake in the project in the Rakhine Basin off western Myanmar, the Perth-based company said last month.

“Myanmar holds lots of promise,” Coleman said. “It’s early days. This is what oil and gas companies call a frontier play, so the rewards are high, but the risks are as well.”

Woodside has said it’s studying international expansion opportunities as the Australian LNG industry faces increasing construction costs and supply competition. The energy company said last month it’s in the early stage of bidding for a stake in Israel’s largest natural gas field and joined a group earlier this year that bid for exploration rights off Cyprus.

“Southeast Asia offers us some opportunity in frontier plays,” Coleman said. “Myanmar is our focus at the moment. We are looking at other countries in the region.”

Woodside, whose Pluto LNG venture started production in April, also plans to decide next year on whether to proceed with the Browse LNG venture in Western Australia. The Browse LNG hub has received approval from the state government, according to an e-mailed statement today. The company, seeking to broaden its Australia-focused portfolio of assets, is continuing talks on the Leviathan field in Israel, he said.

International energy companies, including Woodside, submitted bids to buy as much as 30 percent of the prospect in Israel, partners in the Leviathan field said last month.

“We’ve got to look at other parts of the world,” Coleman said. “The eastern Mediterranean offers potential. We’re still in negotiations in the eastern Mediterranean. It does bring some risk, but we think we can manage those risks.”

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