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Barnett ups ante on Browse

The West Australian Premier has upped the ante on the controversial Browse gas project, indicating that joint venture leader Woodside Petroleum might not receive state government approval for a floating option.

Colin Barnett said he doubted that the cost of constructing his favoured onshore gas processing plant at James Price Point, near Broome, could blow out to between $60 billion and $70 billion, causing Woodside to deem the project uneconomic.

"I doubt that's going to happen," Mr Barnett told the Leadership Matters conference in Perth on Wednesday.

Mr Barnett said in that scenario he would draw Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman's attention to retention licences.

"I would remind him that two-thirds of the gas is owned by the Commonwealth and one-third is owned by the state of Western Australia," Mr Barnett said.

He noted that gas could be brought onshore for the proposed Gorgon and Wheatstone liquefied natural gas (LNG) projects.

"If they can bring gas onshore, then surely you can, too. Pretty simple policy position."

On Tuesday, Mr Barnett confirmed that energy giant Royal Dutch Shell was discussing its preferred option of a floating LNG platform for the Browse project with joint venture partner Woodside.

Mr Barnett has conceded that building three LNG projects in Western Australia at the same time might not be feasible.

The WA Premier has long advocated for Browse to be developed through an onshore LNG plant at James Price Point.

Royal Dutch Shell has neither confirmed nor denied its intentions to pursue floating LNG at Browse.

Mr Coleman said Woodside's position to bring gas to James Price Point had not changed.

"We've got to take that to a natural conclusion. We're 98 per cent of the way through that process.

"That will take us into early next year and we'll make a decision as the joint venture by the end of the first half of next year."

He said Woodside had spent about $1 billion getting to this point.

Shell Australia chairwoman Ann Pickard said the company would "obviously like floating (LNG) because that's going to be a cheaper alternative to some onshore projects".