Mitsui, Mitsubishi Buy Stake in Woodside's Browse LNG Project

on May 01 2012 10:36 AM
The Woodside gas plant is seen at sunset in Burrup at the Pilbarra region in Western Australia
The Woodside gas plant is seen at sunset in Burrup at the Pilbarra region in Western Australia April 18, 2011. Reuters

Woodside Petroleum Limited (AX: WPL) sold a 14.7 percent stake in its Browse liquid natural gas (LNG) development project for $2 billion to a Japanese joint venture operated by Mitsui & Company Limited and Mitsubishi Corporation, the Australian company announced Tuesday.

The price for the minority stake in Woodside's Browse project, which aims to produce natural gas from a huge undersea reservoir off Australia's northwestern coast, values the entire project at about $13.6 billion, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Japanese joint venture, Japan Australia LNG (MIMI Browse) Pty Ltd., will buy an 8 percent interest in Woodside's West Browse venture and a 16 percent interest in its East Browse venture, for a combined interest of 14.7 percent in the entire Browse project.

Perth-based Woodside's interest in the Browse LNG development will fall from 46 percent to 31.3 percent, although it will remain operator of the development. BHP Billiton Ltd., Chevron Corp., Royal Dutch Shell PLC and BP PLC also have interests in the Browse development.

Woodside plans to make its first LNG shipments in 2017, according to the Wall Street Journal. The development will produce 12 million metric tons of LNG per year using three processing units. However, the project has been opposed by environmental groups and some land owners, and there has been contention with the Australian federal and Western Australian state governments over the development schedule.

News of the deal comes as Japan's consumption of LNG fuel has risen in the wake of its nuclear plants shutting down following last year's disaster at the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plants, Reuters reported. If nuclear power capacity remains at its present level, the nation could burn as much as 90 million tons of LNG per year by 2020, compared to 70 million tons in 2011, according to Japan Oil, Gas and Metals Noational Corp. senior researcher Shigeki Sakamoto. 

Woodside Petroleum Limited (WPL.AX) shares rose 3.67 percent to 36.20AUD. Mitsubishi Corporation (8058.T) shares fell 2.07 percent to 1,707 yen.