Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Europe’s largest oil company, will exit the Wheatstone LNG project in Australia after selling its interests for $1.14 billion to Kuwait Foreign Exploration Petroleum Co.
Shell, which had been involved in seven liquefied natural gas projects in the country, will concentrate investment away from the Chevron Corp.-led venture in Western Australia, it said today in a statement. It will sell its 8 percent stake in the Wheatstone-Iago fields and 6.4 percent in the LNG plant to Kufpec, as the state-run Kuwait company is known.
“Shell will remain a major player in Australia’s energy industry,” Shell Chief Executive Officer Ben van Beurden said in the statement. “However, we are refocusing our investment to where we can add the most value with Shell’s capital and technology.”
The Anglo-Dutch company, which planned to invest about $50 billion in Australian LNG, has been reviewing projects worldwide after capital expenditure rose to record $44 billion last year. Van Beurden, who took charge at the start of the year, may step up assets sales after Shell said Jan. 17 that fourth-quarter earnings will fall to the lowest since 2009.
The Hague-based company also said today that it’s examining possible job cuts at its Australian Arrow Energy Ltd. unit. Shell together with its partner PetroChina Co., China’s biggest listed oil and gas producer, delayed an investment decision into the LNG project after costs in Australia surged.
The sale to Kufpec, which already had stake in Wheatstone LNG and nearby fields, will not impact the project’s existing commercial agreements, Shell said.
“This transaction is consistent with Kufpec’s strategy of investing in projects that have strategic tie-ins with the Kuwaiti oil sector,” the Kuwait company CEO Sheikh Nawaf Saud Al-Sabah said by phone.
Wheatstone LNG, which will ships 8.9 million tons of LNG a year year, is due to start production in 2016. The partners, which also include Apache Corp. and Kyushu Electric Power Co., started construction of the plant in 2012. The project will supply the fuel to customers in Asia, such as Japan’s Tokyo Electric Power Co., Chubu Electric Power Co. and Tohoku Electric Power Co.