LUSA 07/10/2024

Lusa - Business News - Timor-Leste: Deal 'soon' on development of Greater Sunrise gas field - president

Luanda, July 9, 2024 (Lusa) - Timor-Leste is close to concluding negotiations with Australia and energy companies for the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field, the country's president has announced on the first day of an official visit to Angola.

José Ramos-Horta was speaking to journalists at the presidential palace in Cidade Alta, Luanda, following a meeting with his Angolan counterpart, João Lourenço, and the signing of three legal instruments to strengthen co-operation between the two countries.

The head of state said that Timor-Leste has a lot to learn from Angola in the energy sector, where the country is "new" - while highlighting the "success" of oil and gas exploration activities in the Timor Sea and onshore.

"There is a prospect that very soon, in the next few weeks or months, we will finalise the long negotiations with Australia and oil and gas companies with interests in the Timor Sea for the development of the Greater Sunrise gas field, which has been at a standstill for almost two decades," Ramos-Horta said. "Everything points to the possibility of an agreement." 

Located 150 kilometres from Timor and 450 kilometres from Darwin, the Greater Sunrise field has been at an impasse, with the government in Dili pressing for the construction of a pipeline to the south of the island, for processing there, and Woodside Energy, the second-biggest shareholder in the consortium and slated operator, preferring a link to an existing unit in Darwin.

The consortium is made up of Timor Gap (56.56%), Woodside (33.44%) and Osaca Gás Australia (10%).

The permanent maritime boundary agreement between Timor-Leste and Australia determines that Greater Sunrise, as a shared resource, would have to be divided, with 70% of the revenue going to Timor-Leste in the case of a pipeline to that country, or 80% if processing takes place in Darwin.

Ramos-Horta emphasised that "unfortunately" Timor is still too dependent on non-renewable resources that "it will not get rid of" and will continue to explore for oil, although it will keep its commitments to the energy transition.

Meanwhile, he said that Timor enjoys "exceptional and exemplary" relations not only with Angola, but with all the states of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP), but "would like to move on from hugs and declarations of friendship to a more practical dimension, which is commercial and economic co-operation."

Regarding cooperation between the two countries in the oil sector, Angola's president, João Lourenço, emphasised that this is one of the areas in which cooperation is to be strengthened, bearing in mind that Timor-Leste has "good prospects" of being a major oil and gas producer.

"But we're not going to stop there," he added, emphasising that Angola's ambition is also to cooperate in other areas, such as tourism, trade and agriculture.

Speaking about the prospect of Timor-Leste joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Lourenço hinted at the possibility of the PALOPs (Portuguese-language countries in Africa) signing a free trade agreement with this "great organisation that includes countries with very strong economies" as he described ASEAN.