MELBOURNE, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Exxon Mobil Corpexpects to make a decision on how to develop the Scarborough gasfield, considered one of the toughest projects in WesternAustralia, around the second half of 2013, its Australianchairman said on Thursday.
The Scarborough field, half-owned by BHP Billiton, lies some 280 kilometres offshore, making it anexpensive prospect to develop, which could be difficult tojustify at a time when abundant gas supplies in the UnitedStates could start flowing into Asia.
"The challenge of Scarborough is finding a solution that'sviable given the challenged nature of the resource," Exxon MobilAustralia chairman John Dashwood told reporters after speakingat a business function.
The partners are evaluating a range of options includingsupplying gas to other companies' LNG plants or building afloating LNG platform, Dashwood said.
"There are some engineering evaluations to go through here,and I don't anticipate a decision much before the second half ofnext year."
Dashwood said any new LNG project would have to be weighedup against potential exports out of the U.S., where Exxon Mobilis the biggest gas producer.
Exxon Mobil is developing a $15.7 billion LNG project inPapua New Guinea and is also a 25 percent partner in Australia'sbiggest LNG project, the $37 billion Gorgon project, operated byChevron .
Dashwood said those projects would not be affected bypotential U.S. exports as all of its production from them hasalready been locked into contracts. He declined to comment onpricing provisions in those deals.
On the oil refining side, Dashwood said Exxon Mobil remainscommitted to running its 80,000 barrels per day Altona refinerynear Melbourne, despite decisions by rivals Royal Dutch Shell
and Caltex to shut some refineries and turnthem into fuel import terminals.
"I understand others have made some choices about notcontinuing to run their refineries here, but we have no plans todo anything other than run the Altona refinery at this point,"he said.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by Joseph Radford)
Keywords: EXXONMOBIL AUSTRALIA/