Timor-Leste President Jose Ramos-Horta has called on the government to not abandon talks with Australian giant Woodside Petroleum over the development of the Greater Sunrise project in the Timor Sea.
Last week Secretary of State Agio Pereira said Woodside’s operations on Greater Sunrise had been suspended since talks between Dili and the Australian company stalled over Woodside’s preferred development concept for the field.
Woodside wants to use floating liquefied natural gas technology to bring the field on stream but the government has instead insisted that the company should build a pipeline to process the gas onshore, a move Woodside argues would cost A$5 billion (US$5 billion) more than its FLNG concept.
Pereira said last week that, for the time being, Woodside would be excluded from any further planning, allowing Timor-Leste and Australia to decide in principal on a plan to move forward with the development of the field.
However Ramos-Horta questioned the government’s stance to cease discussions with a company that had "already invested hundreds of millions of dollar in oil exploration."
“We should look to an agreement as soon as we can,” the President said.
“Not sell ourselves to them. We should hold constructive negotiations to find a solution that is also good for them, because after all they are not a charity, they are not Mother Teresa. They want a profit. All oil companies around the world are like that.”
He also raised concerns the country relied too heavily on the ConocoPhillips-led Bayu Undan field in the Timor Sea.
“What if something happens with Bayu Undan? Like an earthquake or some other disaster, where will our revenues come from then?” Ramos-Horta asked.
The President suggested the government should seek the help of former prime minister Mari Alkatiri whose government successfully negotiated the Bayu Undan development and the Timor Sea Treaty.
“Call Dr Alkatiri and seek his opinion too, give me the correct information. So that we can all put our heads together to find a strong strategy that is the best for Timor-Leste,” Ramos-Horta said.
The Greater Sunrise field lies in jointly run waters between Timor-Leste and Australia and is estimated to hold an estimated 5.1 trillion cubic feet of gas and 300 million barrels of condensate.
Woodside's partners at Sunrise are Shell, ConocoPhillips and Osaka Gas.