Chevron Australia Pty Ltd plans to develop its wholly-owned Wheatstone natural gas discovery offshore Karratha in Western Australia as a new liquefied natural gas (LNG) project, further increasing production capacity for the clean fuel.

The initial phase of the development will tap an estimated 4.5 trillion cubic feet of natural gas resources within two permits that include the Wheatstone discovery, while the processing facility will have an initial capacity of at least one five million tonne per annum LNG production train - with expansion capacity for additional production trains too.

Chevron Australia Managing Director, Roy Krzywosinski, said prospective development opportunities include LNG, domestic gas and gas-to-liquids.

“We intend to use Wheatstone gas resources to underpin an LNG facility on mainland Western Australia,” Krzywosinski said.

“We recognise and respect the desire of the (WA) government to plan for Australia's future energy needs and Wheatstone, in our view, is not only going to be a platform where we can not only commercialise our gas resources for LNG but also provide domestic gas for the local market,” he added.

Wheatstone was discovered in 2004 and appraisal drilling was conducted late last year, while Chevron Australia is currently preparing design studies for development and production, further field appraisal work and site evaluation. Front-end engineering and design is expected to commence next year.

Having assessed several options over the past 12 months, Krzywosinski said Chevron concluded that it made sense to locate the facility on mainland WA for commercial reasons and also in line with the company’s long term vision for the future.

Chevron Australia is likely to develop Wheatstone and its massive Barrow Island-based Gorgon LNG project, which is also offshore Karratha, as independent projects, it’s believed.

Krzywosinski explained, “We have enough gas resources in WA to underpin two Chevron-operated LNG plants. We see Wheatstone as the key asset to underpin that first phase of development, which will then further unlock future gas resources: it could be future expansion of that LNG concept, it could be even possibly GTL.”

“But we think getting that first plant down and using Wheatstone to underpin that is a strategic decision, so to speak. We're moving forward with quite a determined focus in developing our large natural gas resources in Australia and continue to make significant multi-million investments to discover, develop and commercialise our significant Australia gas resources for both domestic and international markets,” he concluded.