The head of East Timor's national oil company said he expects a decision by November on whether to pipe natural gas from its offshore Greater Sunrise project to the Southeast Asia island or to Australia for liquefaction and export.
Production at the new field could start around 2030, Antonio De Sousa, CEO of Timor Gap, said late Tuesday on the sidelines of the Offshore Technology Conference in Houston, reiterating the project's timeline.
The projected multi-billion-dollar Greater Sunrise development on the maritime boundary between East Timor and Australia has been stalled for decades amid disputes over where the gas should be processed into liquefied natural gas (LNG).
In February, however, partners in the Sunrise Joint Venture, which includes majority owner Timor Gap, operator Woodside and the Australian arm of Osaka Gas, formally committed to working rapidly to pick the best option for developing the field, factoring in for the first time the potential benefits for East Timor.
A study to evaluate processing and selling the gas in East Timor, called Timor-Leste, versus Australia and the costs of each location requires the approval of a designated authority representing the interests of both countries.
"Once the authorities approve, we can do the study, which will maybe take between three to six months to finalize," De Sousa said.
The development of the Greater Sunrise field is critical to the Southeast Asia island nation's economy as its main source of revenue - the Bayu Undan oil and gas field - stopped producing gas earlier this year.
Central to East Timor's hopes of cinching the project is the availability of using newer, modular LNG processing units, as well as operating costs that are expected to be lower than in Australia.
Costs of building an LNG plant in Timor Leste could be lower than previously estimated due to newer processing technology, De Sousa said.
The Australian Financial Review last year reported that the independent study showed total capital cost for the LNG project would be $11.8 billion in Darwin, Australia, and $14.1 billion in Timor-Leste.
Australia-based Woodside did not immediately offer a comment outside of office hours.
(Reporting by Arathy Somasekhar in HoustonEditing by Marguerita Choy)