Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL.AU) on Thursday reported a 20% rise in first-quarter revenue as higher oil prices offset lower production, and said it expects to start producing liquefied natural gas from its A$14.9 billion Pluto project in the coming days.
Australia's biggest pure-play oil company also revealed that it sold a stake in a gas permit to South Africa's Sasol Ltd. (SSL) to support a possible expansion of Pluto.
Higher oil and LNG prices helped push Woodside's revenue for the three months to March 31 up to US$1.20 billion from US$998 million a year earlier, missing a UBS forecast of US$1.27 billion.
Production fell 10% to 14.1 million barrels of oil equivalent from 15.6 million a year earlier following cyclone activity in Western Australia state.
Woodside maintained its 2012 production guidance of 56 million-60 million BOE plus another 17 million-21 million BOE from Pluto.
"The operations team is well into the start-up sequence with first LNG anticipated in the coming days," Woodside said. "LNG vessels from the Pluto fleet are being readied to arrive at Dampier in time to load Pluto cargoes."
Woodside doesn't have enough gas to expand Pluto and said the next exploration well, Vucko-1, will be drilled in the current quarter.
The Perth-based company said it has sold 25% of a gas permit offshore Western Australia to Sasol that could support the expansion, without disclosing a price.
Woodside said talks with other gas resource owners that could process their gas through an expanded Pluto are continuing.
-By Ross Kelly, Dow Jones Newswires; 61-2-8272-4692; Ross.Kelly@dowjones.com