Woodside chair warns Australian investments at risk


The chairman of Australia's biggest energy company has warned that it wouldn't be able to continue to invest in domestic oil and gas projects if the country's regulations and fiscal policies keep constantly changing.

Woodside chairman Richard Goyder told shareholders at the company's annual general meeting in Perth on Friday that it had only made the decision to invest $US12 billion ($A18 billion) in the Scarborough offshore gas project in Western Australia and the related Pluto 2 Train "because of the fiscal and regulatory certainty that Australia has always offered in the past".

"We will only be able to make future decisions to invest in both significant new gas projects and the new energies such as ammonia and hydrogen that will power our future, if that fiscal and regulatory certainty is maintained," he said.

"Otherwise, we expose our shareholders' capital to unacceptable risk."

The Scarborough project is expected to deliver its first LNG cargo in 2026 for export to Asian markets. 

Woodside CEO Meg O'Neill said it would create thousands of jobs locally and deliver significant revenue to the federal and WA governments. 

"We look forward to these benefits really starting to flow across the next couple of years as onshore and offshore construction ramps up," she said.

Ms O'Neill said there remains "really attractive" gas development opportunities in Australia that could help Woodside's customers meet their energy needs.

Climate activists say greenhouse gas emissions created by Scarborough's customers burning the LNG will drive climate change, and the 430km gas pipeline that's part of the project could devastate marine habitats.

The Conservation Council of WA organised mobile video billboard protests outside the AGM at the Perth Convention Centre and other high-profile locations around the city, accusing Woodside of not having a credible climate plan.

"Woodside is pumping millions of tonnes of pollution into our atmosphere, every year, to rake in its enormous profits," said Anna Chapman, fossil fuels program manager at CCWA. "We need to get our biggest polluters under control." 

A number of shareholders peppered Woodside's board about questions about the Paris accords and climate change on Friday. 

Woodside plans to put its climate plan to a non-binding, advisory vote of shareholders at its 2024 annual meeting.

A resolution backed by climate activists to amend Woodside's constitution to give shareholders more of a voice on climate change issues failed on Friday, with over 93 per cent of shares cast against it.  

Mr Goyder said the board is deeply concerned about climate change and believes gas will play an important role in supporting decarbonisation by replacing coal as an energy source.

He's the latest resource executive of an Australian resource company to complain the country's tradition of regulatory certainty had been eroded.

Earlier this month Santos chief executive Kevin Gallagher said that uncertainty around the Labor government's "safeguard mechanism" for cutting emissions was scaring away investment and concerning Australia's Asian partners. 

The mechanism, which aims to cut carbon emissions, will apparently apply to Santos' Barossa project off the coast of NT despite the $4.7 billion project being more than half-complete.

In January BHP declared it was pausing investments in Queensland after the state government there hiked dramatically hiked royalties on coal, one of the state's biggest industries.

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