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Woodside profit quadruples amid gas crisis

·3-min read

Woodside Energy has reaped the benefits of soaring oil and gas prices in the first half of 2022, boosted by assets acquired from BHP.

Australia's largest oil and gas company posted a fourfold increase in net profit after tax (NPAT) to $US1.64 billion ($A2.38b) for the six months to June 30.

Shares in Woodside rose 3.3 per cent or $A1.18 to $A36.53 in morning trade on Tuesday.

"There is no doubt that energy security has become a fundamental issue for world energy markets in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, and we are seeing that translate into commodity prices," managing director and CEO Meg O'Neill said on an investor call.

Ms O'Neill said she had confidence in the longer-term outlook for gas, which makes up 70 per cent of Woodside's business.

She said growing demand is expected during the coming decade as Asian and European markets look to reduce dependence on Russian gas.

Underlying NPAT quadrupled to a first-half record at $US1.82b.

Operating revenue for the six months to June 30 rose by 132 per cent to $US5.81b.

Chief Financial Officer Graham Tiver said Woodside paid $A700m in Australian taxes, royalties and excise in the first half of 2022.

"Higher prices do translate to higher taxes," Mr Tiver said.

Ms O'Neill said the results reflected the benefits of acquiring BHP's petroleum assets, higher prices and more reliable LNG operations.

Perth-headquartered Woodside completed a merger with BHP Petroleum on June 1 and may sell some assets after the current strategic review, potentially resulting in a special dividend or share buyback.

But Woodside is yet to lock in a partner for its controversial Scarborough gas project in the Carnarvon Basin offshore Western Australia, after initially planning to sell down a 50 per cent stake.

The project that some have described as a "climate bomb" holds 11.1 trillion cubic feet of gas and is scheduled to operate for 25 years from 2026.

Ms O'Neill told analysts Woodside has spoken to "a number of high-quality potential partners" but is not in a hurry.

Quizzed about the lack of guidance for 2023, she said it would be provided at an investor day in December.

Group production for the half-year was 19 per cent higher at 54.9m barrels, partly due to improved reliability at LNG facilities, Ms O'Neill said.

Increased production capacity at Bass Strait enabled the energy company to supply additional gas into the eastern Australian domestic gas market.

Meanwhile Pluto LNG achieved a strong production performance, up 11 per cent to 24.3m barrels.

Production from Pluto was increased by the start-up of Pyxis Hub and the commencement of gas flows through the Interconnector pipeline to Karratha Gas Plant.

"This well-timed investment allowed us to supply three LNG cargoes, one condensate cargo and pipeline gas into a strong market," Ms O'Neill said.

"The start-up of the Pluto-KGP Interconnector also marked the beginning of the North West Shelf Project's transformation into a tolling facility, which is essential to the long-term future of Australia's first and largest LNG plant."

But Australia's largest untapped gas resource in the Browse Basin north of Broome needed a "CCS (carbon capture and storage) solution" for Woodside to move forward, she said.

Woodside believes the technology will play a key role in gas-rich Australia meeting its emissions targets, and for the company to achieve net zero by 2050.

Woodside declared a first-half dividend of $US1.09 per share, up from 30 US cents a year earlier.