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Woodside lifts Australia Scarborough gas resource estimate by 52%

Sydney — Australian LNG exporter Woodside announced Friday a 52% increase in the resource volume at its Scarborough project, helping underpin the expansion of the Pluto LNG terminal.

The estimated gross contingent resource (2C) for dry gas volume at the field has increased to 11.1 Tcf from 7.3 Tcf. Woodside's share of that is 8.3 Tcf.

"This resource upgrade further improves Scarborough's existing value proposition as we target the delivery of a new, globally competitive LNG project from 2024," Woodside CEO Peter Coleman said.

He added that it underscores the project's potential to meet growing demand for gas in Asia and beyond, as well as for supplying the domestic market in Western Australia.

The gas is planned to be exported via an expanded Pluto LNG facility. Woodside's 90%-owned Pluto currently has a 4.9 million mt/year nameplate capacity while a second train is targeted to be 5 million mt/year.

"Woodside has maintained a target FID of Scarborough as 1H 2020 with finalization of tolling/access arrangements for Pluto and gas marketing key milestones to be checked off," RBC Capital Markets analyst Ben Wilson said in a research note.

With the resource upgrade and FEED (Front-End Engineering Design) well underway for the second LNG train at Pluto, the upstream development will be ready for startup in 2023 with LNG production expected in 2024, Bernstein Research senior analyst Neil Beveridge said.

"Key things for progress are sales agreements and equity sell down," Beveridge said.

"1.5 million mt/year of LNG sales agreement has been secured so far for the second train at Pluto. Woodside is also targeting to sell down its interest in Scarborough which is at 75% currently. Further progress on both will increase confidence for FID next year," he added.

Woodside's interest in Greater Scarborough, which covers the Scarborough, Thebe and Jupiter fields, comprises a 75% interest in WA-1-4 -- which contains the majority of the Scarborough field -- and a 50% interest in each of WA-1-R, WA-62-R and WA-63-R. It is the operator of the retention leases.

"As a result of the Scarborough resource volume increase, Greater Scarborough contains an estimated gross dry contingent resource (2C volume of 13 Tcf (100%; 9.3 Tcf Woodside share), a 41% increase from the previous 9.2 Tcf (100%; 6.4 Tcf Woodside share)," the company said.

BHP holds the remaining 25% interest in Scarborough.

The main Scarborough retention license, WA-1-R, has a notional expiry date of November 2020 and BHP's option for an additional 10% of the resource expires at the end of this year, Wilson said.

-- Nathan Richardson, newsdesk@spglobal.com

-- Eric Yep, eric.yep@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Shashwat Pradhan, shashwat.pradhan@spglobal.com