Western Australia could be set to gain more royalties from the Woodside Petroleum-operated Browse development following a potential change to the state’s maritime borders.
Geoscience Australia discovered three rocky outcrops on North Scott Reef, off the coast of Western Australia, that are technically islands and will prompt a redrawing of Western Australia's maritime boundaries.
The majority of the Browse fields currently lie in Commonwealth waters but the ABC reported the maritime boundary change would see the Browse resource lying in West Australian waters rise from 5% to 65%.
The ABC quoted WA Mines Minister Bill Marmion as saying the rocky outcrops could give the state government a greater say in the development of the Browse project.
"It's a very exciting development and potentially a great windfall for the state," he was quoted as saying.
"We believe it's significant and we are now working closely with the Federal Government to determine WA's share of the Browse field and its exact implications.
"The fact that all of a sudden more of the field is in Western Australia's waters, all that gas from West Australian-owned land comes to Western Australia."
Woodside scrapped plans last year which would have seen the construction of an onshore liquefied natural gas hub at James Price Point, north of Broome, in favour of a floating LNG development.
At the time, West Australian Premier Colin Barnett was critical of the move, with the onshore option the state government’s preferred option.
Barnett has recently been more accepting of the FLNG concept for Browse but has still insisted the renewal of the retention leases for the project which fall under the state’s jurisdiction would be dependent on an onshore supply base in Western Australia, and the supply of gas into domestic local industries.
Marmion said on Friday he doubted the state government would use its increased jurisdiction over the project to force Woodside to revisit an onshore option for the development.
"The Premier has actually said that for this particular project floating LNG is probably already organised," he told the ABC.
"What it may mean though is that there's a stronger case for a supply base in Western Australia."
The Browse project is based on three fields – Torosa, Brecknock and Calliance – which lie in the offshore Browse basin and are estimated to hold a contingent resource of 15.5 trillion cubic feet of gas and 417 million barrels of condensate.