Woodside Petroleum says its recently-commissioned $15 billion Pluto project is operating at almost two thirds capacity, creating opportunities for spot sales to Japan.
During an investor briefing on Monday, Woodside said production guidance remained unchanged but Pluto was operating at 65 per cent, or more than three times its forecast capacity of 20 per cent for May.
Woodside recently commissioned its Pluto liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Western Australia's Pilbara region, which is expected to contribute 17 to 21 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) to the company's full-year production.
Chief executive Peter Coleman said much of Woodside's focus had been on completing Pluto and early results had been pleasing.
"We look at the negotiations we've had with our customers around cargoes and so forth," he said.
"There is opportunities to have some spot sales in there. We're still negotiating the final components of that though.
"I wouldn't say there's a lot of spot sales in there at all, but there is opportunity for us."
First production of condensate, which is stripped out before LNG is produced, occurred in late March and 1,236 barrels had been produced by the end of the month.
Chief financial officer Lawrie Tremaine said recent processing results showed Pluto was operating close to full capacity.
"In the past week, the train has been operating reliably at 95 per cent of design capacity," Mr Tremaine said.
"This is great news but I have to caution you that it is still early days in the ramp-up of Pluto."
He said the cash flow impact from Pluto was expected to be very significant.
Investment in the project began in July 2007.
Woodside also said it was focusing its efforts on exploration in emerging and frontier basins.
Planned spending on emerging basins would increase from 17 per cent between 2012-2014 to 28 per cent between 2015-2017, it said.
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(Originally published May 29, 2012, in Climate Spectator.)