Australia's Woodside posts 55 pct rise in Q1 production

SYDNEY, April 18 Wed Apr 17, 2013 8:09pm EDT

SYDNEY, April 18 (Reuters) - Australia's top oil and gas company, Woodside Petroleum Ltd, reported a 55 percent rise in first-quarter production on Thursday, boosted by its flagship Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

The A$14.9 billion Pluto LNG project, which began production in April last year, is Australia's third gas-export project and the first to come online in six years.

Woodside said its first-quarter production of 21.9 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe), up from 14.1 mmboe a year ago, was in line with its 2013 production forecast of 88 mmboe to 94 mmboe.

However, production in the three months to March 31 was down 10 percent on the prior quarter, due to an extreme cyclone season and the suspension of production at its Vincent oilfield for planned shipyard maintenance.

Quarterly sales revenue fell 18 percent to $1.45 billion.

Woodside said last week it had shelved plans for its $45 billion Browse LNG project in Western Australia, saying it will consider a floating LNG plant after deciding the onshore development did not make economic sense.

It said on Thursday that alternative development concepts will be evaluated.

Woodside also said it had held "several engagements" in the quarter with the Australian and East Timorese government over its prospective Sunrise LNG plant in East Timor, a project that has been locked in a sometimes bitter dispute.

Woodside prefers a floating LNG plant, while East Timor prefers an onshore plant that will provide jobs for locals.

"Although these engagements do not represent any agreement at this stage, the dialogue continues developing common ground with both governments to find a way forward," the company said.

Pluto came online a year behind its original schedule. It is Australia's first LNG project in six years and, alongside Angola LNG, the only new supply due to enter the market until 2014 or 2015.

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