Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations

AUSTRALIAN oil giant Woodside Petroleum has copped heat over whether or not it will receive the backing of the Export Finance and Insurance Corp to develop its Senegal offshore SNE Field in West Africa.
Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations Woodside under fire over taxpayer funding allegations

Paul Hunt

Senior Journalist: Energy & Commodities

Paul Hunt
The SNE development will be Senegal's first offshore oil development and is a joint venture between Capricorn Senegal (40%), Woodside (35%), FAR Ltd (15%) and Petrosen (10%). 
SNE is a deep-water oil field discovery some 100 km offshore south of Dakar and has an estimated production capacity of 100,000 barrels of oil per day. First production is targeted for 2022.
The potential funding of the field development through the EFIC came to light yesterday, when The Guardian pointed the finger at Woodside accusing them of taking taxpayer cash and not paying its fair share of corporate tax. 
The Guardian claimed that Woodside paid no corporate income tax in the 2016-2017 financial year. However, Woodside Consolidated Group paid $750 million in tax in that financial year.
Since the article was published, Greenpeace told Energy News it held serious concerns over Woodside's SNE development and condemned the use of taxpayer dollars being spent to support fossil fuel projects. 
"Australians would be disgusted to learn that their taxes are potentially going to be used to boost the profits of oil and gas exploration in Africa - particularly at a time when we need to be urgently moving away from fossil fuels," Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner Nathaniel Pelle said. 
"It is appalling that Australian taxpayers should be expected to underwrite fossil fuel production especially where it involves Australian firms potentially plundering the resources of developing countries." 
Greenpeace cited a recent move by Norway's sovereign wealth fund to move out of oil and gas saying investments like Woodside's SNE field were "risky" given the "urgency for the work to move fast" to reduce fossil fuel consumption. 
"Oil companies are notorious for tax avoidance, not to mention undermining workers' rights through dodgy labour firms, and seeking to water down environmental regulations in order to cut their costs - we shouldn't give them a helping hand," Pelle said. 
Woodside however expect major benefits from the development for the Senegal national economy as well as direct and indirect employment opportunities at both a national and regional level. 
The Senegalese government approved the proposed Environmental and Social Impact Assessment in early January. 
Greenpeace said it had not reviewed their environmental impact assessment but note that this proposal is in an important area for both commercial and subsistence artisanal fisheries as well as being a critical site for endangered turtles.
The Phase 1 development concept for the SNE field is a stand-alone FPSO facility with subsea infrastructure which will allow subsequent phases of development, including options for potential gas export to shore and for future subsea tiebacks from other reservoirs and fields.
It is unknown how much cash Woodside could receive under the EFIC, however in the past it has provided a loan of around $500 million for fossil fuel developments in PNG. 
Woodside was trading at $34.84 per share.