Woodside Petroleum Limited is an Australian petroleum exploration and production company. Woodside is the largest operator of oil and gas production in Australia and also Australia’s largest independent dedicated oil and gas company. It is a public company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and has its headquarters in Perth, Western Australia.
Woodside was incorporated on 26 July 1954. It was originally named Woodside (Lakes Entrance) Oil Co NL and it was named after the small town of Woodside, Victoria. Woodside's early years were focussed on Victoria's Gippsland Basin. Switching to northern Western Australia in the early 1960s, Woodside joined up with Shell and Burmah Oil to form the original North West Shelf consortium. BHP later replaced Burmah, and with Shell, each became a 40% shareholder in Woodside. In the early 1990s both BHP and Shell agreed to sell down to 34% stakes each, before BHP sold out completely (for an average price of $3 per share, completing the sale in October 1994).
In 2001 Shell sought to buy out the remaining portion of the company that it did not already own at the time; however, the takeover move was blocked by the Treasurer of Australia at the time, Peter Costello, on national interest grounds. On 9 November 2010, Shell sold approximately one-third of its 34% stake to institutional investors at a share price of A$42.23, reducing its overall stake in Woodside to 24%. On 17 June 2014, Shell announced it would reduce its remaining 23.1% stake to 4.5% through a sale on the market to institutional investors, and a buy-back by Woodside, to which the company had agreed. The following day Shell sold 9.5% to institutions. An extraordinary meeting of Woodside shareholders to approve the buyback on 1 August 2014 however failed to achieve a majority 75% vote, falling short at 72%. Shell announced it was reviewing its options.
On 30 May 2011 Peter Coleman succeeded Don Voelte as the company’s Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director.
Woodside has exploration, development and operating activities in Australia and a number of international regions including Canada, United States, Senegal Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Myanmar, Cameroon, Gabon, Morocco and Ireland. Within Australia Woodside operates or is developing a number of liquefied natural gas projects. The company also operates the Enfield and Vincent oil fields offshore from Exmouth in Western Australia.
The Greater Sunrise gas development lies in the Timor Sea north of Australia and includes the Sunrise and Troubadour fields, which were discovered in 1974. Greater Sunrise is located about 450 kilometres (280 mi) north-west of Darwin and 150 kilometres (93 mi) south-east of Timor-Leste. Approximately 80% of the fields lie within Australian waters, with the remainder in jointly administered waters. The Greater Sunrise fields have a total contingent dry gas resource of 5.13 trillion cubic feet (145 billion cubic metres) and 225.9 million barrels (35.92×106 m3) of condensate. The Sunrise JV participants are Woodside (operator) (33.4%), ConocoPhillips (30%), Shell (26.6%) and Osaka Gas (10%).
In April 2010 Shell's floating liquefied natural gas technology was selected by the Sunrise Joint Venture for developing the Greater Sunrise gas fields in the Timor Sea. The Woodside-operated JV is now seeking to engage regulators on the concept selection process.
In February 2006, the Mauritanian government led by Ely Ould Mohamed Vall denounced amendments to an oil contract made by former authoritarian leader Maaouya Ould Sid'Ahmed Taya with Woodside Petroleum. In 2004, Woodside had agreed to invest US$600 million in developing Mauritania's Chinguetti offshore oil project. The controversial amendments, which Mauritanian authorities declared had been signed "outside the legal framework of normal practice, to the great detriment of our country", could cost Mauritania up to $200 million a year, according to BBC News. The Australian Federal Police in June 2006 were investigating Woodside for allegations of bribery and corruption in Mauritania according to the Sydney Morning Herald. The AFP officially cleared the company of any wrongdoing in May 2008.
In 2006-2007, as part of the Pluto LNG project, Woodside faced opposition over plans to build an onshore processing plant on the Burrup Peninsula in Western Australia, as the site is home to significant petroglyphs up to 30,000 years old.
It has been suggested that intense lobbying by Woodside Petroleum contributed to the coalition Howard government's initial decision against emissions trading in August 2000. The company also opposed the Rudd Labor government's Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme in 2009.
Woodside is among six companies accused of making deceptive public statements in an attempt to get free carbon permits. The Australian Conservation Foundation says the companies exaggerated in public, but told a different story to their shareholders and investors. In June 2009, the ACF lodged an official complaint with the Federal consumer affairs watchdog asking that the matter be investigated. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission took no action against the companies.
In April 2011 Australia's Fair Work Ombudsman began an investigation into claims that foreign workers were underpaid on two North-West Shelf oil rigs operated by Woodside Petroleum. In April 2013, the Federal Court in WA heard allegations that the workers were paid less than $3 an hour to work on the oil rigs. Documents tendered to the court claimed that the four men worked as painters on Woodside rigs on the North West Shelf off northern WA from July 2009 until early 2011.
In the corporation's annual offshore performance report, published in mid-2013, the failure of an oil mist detector at Woodside Petroleum's Vincent oilfield in Western Australia was caused by faulty wiring and inadequately designed equipment. The issue was identified during a visit by a third party at Woodside's largest single source of oil production.
The "Save The Kimberley" campaign was an organised protest against Woodside's involvement with a proposal to construct the James Price Point gas industrial complex in Western Australia’s Kimberley region. A protest concert was held at Melbourne, Australia's Federation Square in October 2012, followed by a second event in early 2013 at The Esplanade in Fremantle, Western Australia that featured Dr Bob Brown, former leader of the Australian Greens political party. A march to protest the proposed gas refinery construction at James Price Point accompanied the Fremantle concert, and campaign supporters were photographed with banners and placards.
The proposal was eventually abandoned in April 2013, but the AU$1.5 billion social benefits package that had been brokered between the Kimberley Land Council and Woodside, together with its joint-venture partners and the Western Australian Colin Barnett-led government, remained an ongoing issue. Criticism was directed at the corporation by those who believed that Woodside was under an obligation to pay out the full monetary sum of the package to local Aboriginal organisations and communities. Former head of the Kimberley Land Council Wayne Bergmann, who brokered the deal prior to his resignation, explained to the media: "There was no legal right to that deal; it was broached politically and now they [Woodside, the joint-venture partners and the state government] need to honour the bargain." As of 15 April 2013, Woodside had paid AU$3.7 million to Aboriginal organisations in accordance with the agreement and a Woodside spokesperson stated that the corporation would "continue to support a range of voluntary social investment activities in the West Kimberley."