Woodside gives date of Coleman departure

WOODSIDE Petroleum has confirmed its CEO of 10 years standing will step down from his role as chief at the end of the month, before leaving the board on June 3 but those waiting for confirmation of his final successor will be left hanging. 
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O'Neill opening Woodside's LNG trucking facility in the Pilbara

Helen Clark

Editor

Peter Coleman announced his resignation last year and said it would come in the second half of this calendar year, though never said whether it would precede or follow sanction of the A$16 billion Scarborough gas development. 
 
Former COO and current vice president development and marketing Meg O'Neill has been named interim CEO from April 20. This means Australia's top oil company will have its first female CEO, and she will be the first  female CEO of an ASX50 Energy company.
 
BHP Petroleum boss, Irishwoman Geraldine Slattery, was apparently also in the running and Energy News has heard around the traps the preference is for a woman. 
 
Former Shell Australia boss Zoe Yujnovich had also been named by industry watchers.
 
Both women would come from companies that have stakes in the North West Shelf LNG facility. BHP and Woodside's talks over third party tolling arrangements apparently became particularly acrimonious in 2019 when Andrew McKenzie was still the mining giant's CEO; he has moved to be Shell chairman earlier this year. 
 
However Santos boss Kevin Gallagher was considered such a contender his company yesterday offered him A$6 million worth of shares, which vest in 2025, to keep him and the strategy that pulled the company from the red to the black in only a few years. 
 
The announcement yesterday may have effectively dashed Woodside's plans, leaving O'Neill in the role until an external candidate can be found (Gallagher worked for Woodside previously). The search is ‘progressing" Woodside said this afternoon after the market closed. 
 
Woodside has said it will make a final investment decision on the Scarborough project, that will send gas to an expanded Pluto plant, in the second half of this year, but whether O'Neill or her ultimate replacement will make that decision is not known. 
 
O'Neill is considered strong on operations, and like Coleman came to the company after decades with ExxonMobil but analysts suggest a dedicated strategist with a long term vision for the company and its transition is needed. 
 
Coleman's critics allege he has done little to drive the company forward in his decade, with few exploration projects. 
 
Development of the Browse gas field has been cancelled once -- James Price Point -- and sanction for the North West Shelf backfill concept that is part of the broader Burrup Hub development, pushed back three times on his watch. 
 
O'Neill is a strong proponent of the integrated project worth tens of billions of dollars, having spoken on it during Investor Briefing Days and at multiple AOG events.. 
 
At last year's conference, she gave a guarded but sharp rebuke to the unaligned joint venture partners dragging their feet on third-party gas tolling arrangement and outlined the potential losses to the state, including the risks to 4000 direct jobs that could vanish, as estimated by an ACIL Allen report commissioned by Woodside last year. 
 
Speaking on AOG's sidelines, she said Woodside was taking "a real hard look" at what could Come from the price destruction of the Brent oil standard. It was not long after that the company again announced sanction date pushbacks for Scarborough and Browse. 
 
"Meg has demonstrated that she is an extremely capable executive, underpinned by her extensive experience and track record in the global energy sector," chairman Richard Goyder said of the US born engineer. 
 
Unlike compatriot Don Volte, who ran the company before Coleman, she is not known for fireworks or to talk in headlines and unlike Coleman will also, Energy News hopes, manage to avoid expressing something that sounds rather like sympathy for Myanmar's generals after the coup of February 1. 
 
Woodside's annual general meeting is held Thursday, where it is expected more will be revealed.