Timor-Leste, Australia sign offshore gas field treaty

UNITED NATIONS • Timor-Leste and Australia have signed a treaty at the United Nations in New York to resolve a long-running dispute over their maritime border and struck a deal on how to share revenue from the offshore Greater Sunrise gas field.

Timor-Leste will receive a bigger share of the revenue than Australia depending on the development concept - 70 per cent of the revenue if the gas is piped to the tiny country, or 80 per cent if the gas is piped to Australia for processing.

The agreement also establishes a maritime boundary in the Timor Sea for the first time.

Australia had sought a boundary that was aligned with its continental shelf, but Timor-Leste argued that the border should lie halfway between it and Australia - placing much of the Greater Sunrise field under its control.

"With this treaty, we open a new chapter in relations between Australia and Timor-Leste," Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said.

She signed the treaty alongside Timor-Leste's Deputy Minister of the Prime Minister for the Delimitation of Borders, Mr Hermenegildo Augusto Cabral Pereira.

The protracted dispute had led the owners of Greater Sunrise - Woodside Petroleum, ConocoPhillips, Royal Dutch Shell and Japan's Osaka Gas - to shelve the project.

The Greater Sunrise field is estimated to hold 5.1 trillion cubic ft of gas and 226 million barrels of condensates, which analysts have previously estimated could be worth US$40 billion (S$53 billion).

However, development could be at least a decade away, with Woodside Petroleum looking at the latter half of the next decade.

Australian Associated Press reported shortly before the signing ceremony that Timor-Leste had accused Australia of colluding with the oil companies to have the gas piped to Australia for processing.

Timor-Leste had been pushing hard for the building of an onshore processing plant to boost its economy. Ms Bishop said Australia does not have a position and that the main concern was that any project was economically viable.

Timor-Leste has been in dispute with Australia over the sea border since its independence from Indonesia in 2002.

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 09, 2018, with the headline 'Timor-Leste, Australia sign offshore gas field treaty'. Print Edition | Subscribe