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    East Timor President Okays Sunrise Bill


Last month, the president exercised his veto over bill.

by: Shardul Sharma

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East Timor President Okays Sunrise Bill

The president of Timor Leste (East Timor) January 17 approved a government bill to use the country's sovereign wealth fund to pay for the $650mn acquisition of a majority 56.56% interest in the Sunrise gas project.

Last month, Francisco Guterres exercised his veto over the bill, stating December 11 that it was to avoid the excessive use of Petroleum Fund money. He said he received the government proposal November 16 from the president of the national parliament.

However, the bill later won a parliamentary vote of approval and legally the president can veto a bill only once. If it wins the parliamentary okay, the president has to ratify it.

Reuters news agency reported December 13 that the proposal would remove a 20% cap on state participation in oil projects and let Sunrise and other projects bypass parliamentary approval; that the veto could have potentially delayed the acquisition of the Sunrise stakes from Shell and ConocoPhillips; and that the president had called for the proposal to be revised.

The government of Timor-Leste agreed in November 2018 to pay Shell $300mn for its 26.56% stake in the Greater Sunrise field, a little over one month after it agreed to pay ConocoPhillips $350mn for its 30% interest in the same asset.

Australia's Woodside operates the undeveloped Greater Sunrise project with a 33.44% interest, while the other non-state partner is Japan's Osaka Gas with 10%. The fields, 150 km southeast offshore Timor Leste and 450 km northwest of Darwin in Australia, were discovered in 1974 and hold gross contingent resources of 5.13 trillion ftof gas and 225.9mn barrels of condensate. In August the Timor Leste government reiterated its desire for a tie-back to a proposed liquefaction project in Timor-Leste, rather than to see it developed as a floating LNG project, like Prelude or Ichthys.

If the government does complete on the 56.56% stake, it would leave it highly reliant on Woodside to develop the project.