WA Premier Barnett is smarting over Woodside Petroleum’s decision to dump the $40 billion gas hub precinct project. He has come out swinging that there will be no $1.5 billion benefits package for the Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo peoples, many who remain abjectly poor. He has apologised to the Kimberley Elders for the loss of what he believed would have been a once in a life time opportunity to turn around the fortunes of their people.
Premier Barnett has also indicated that Woodside and its partners may lose their lease over the one-third of the James Price Point (Walmadany) Browse site.
He said the compensation package had been subject to the gas hub going ahead and to the venture partners bringing the gas onshore. The Stringer’s journalists have long reported that the venture partners will be considering offshore gas processing and the latest technology that goes with the floating on site option – one of the preferred options.
“There will not be (the $1.5 billion) benefits package negotiated with the Traditional Owners,” said Premier Barnett.
“There will not be the benefits package and I hate to say that, but it is the reality.”
“I don’t apologise for trying as hard as I could to get this project to occur onshore but I apologise to the Aboriginal people for not succeeding.”
The Kimberley’s Wayne Bergmann, the Aboriginal representing the interests of the Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo who signed on to the compensation package said $1.5 billion must still be paid.
It has been reported that Woodside has paid $3.7 million to Aboriginal groups as part of the deal and they have no intention of asking for any of it back.
“We will sit down and review the agreement in line with our next steps in the evaluation of the Browse resources,” said a Woodside spokesperson.
Last week Woodside Petroleum said the onshore development proposal was not commercially viable and did not meet the company’s “commercial requirements for a positive final investment.”
Premier Barnett is still determined to get an onshore precinct, even if it is a smaller version. It will at least leave open the door for future expansion for a multi-layered industrial complex and the port to the world that can rival the Port Hedland delta and export not only gas but ores and minerals from the resource rich Piblara and Kimberley.
Goolarabooloo Senior Law Boss Phillip Roe said that his people were prepared for this. “We celebrate that Woodside has dumped the proposal but we do not trust Premier Barnett. We know that despite how much damage an onshore facility would do to our Country and the environment, we know how much Barnett wants it. We will continue to fight to protect our Country from his dictator like behaviour.”
“We didn’t expect Premier Barnett to take the dumping very well. He threatened us with compulsory acquisition, he has used poverty against us, he has used the benefits package against us so why would we expect him to stop,” said Mr Roe.
One third of the Browse Basin is located in State waters. The Browse Basin is home to gas fields which have been explored. The fields are about 400 kilometres northwest of Broome. It is believed that the venture partners would have required a 450 km pipeline from the gas fields to the proposed onshore gas hub. The development concept covered the Brecknock South, and Tarosa fields. It is estimated that nearly 14 trillion cubic feet of gas was up for production use and an additional 300 million barrels of condensate.
Premier Barnett said everyone is effectively back to the drawing board. “It should not be assumed that the retention of Commonwealth leases automatically means the same treatment of State leases.”
“If it goes offshore, if that is what the proponents want, entirely from square one, I’m just making the point and I hope the companies listen, do not assume anything.”
Premier Barnett wanted to clarify that the onshore facility would not be making a loss, that is was not unprofitable as suggested by Woodside in its statement last week.
“No one is making a loss here,” said Premier Barnett.
The Department of State Development and Citigroup estimated a profit margin of 11 per cent versus 13 per cent for the floating LNG option. But as our resource sector sources, and including our Woodside source, said, the reason that the deal collapsed was that the public perception of their companies rapaciously destroying pristine environment did not sit well with board members and some of the executive management. Secondly, they were appalled by Premier Barnett’s poor handling of the agreement between the Jabirr Jabirr and Goolarabooloo peoples and the State Government, and his threat of compulsory acquisition of the land was a slow kill death knell for the project. Lastly, many of them believe the offshore technology, which means a site based option with all sorts of futuristic variables to arise, needed to be embraced.