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* Asia-Pacific decommissioning costs estimated at $100 bln
* New Australian law deters sales of ageing oil, gas fields
* Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia tackle abandonment wave
By Sonali Paul
MELBOURNE, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Australia has passedlegislation that could set a precedent for who pays to clean upthe fossil fuel industry in Asia, making former owners of oiland gas fields responsible for the costs of dismantlingfacilities if later owners fail.
The new law provides a blueprint for governments tusslingwith the oil and gas industry over the removal of hundreds ofobsolete energy facilities, particularly as the world moves to alower-carbon economy.
The cost of decommissioning offshore facilities in Australiais expected to run to $40 billion, with half of that in the next10 years. For Asia-Pacific as a whole the clean-up bill isestimated at $100 billion out to 2050, say consultants WoodMackenzie.
Australia's legislation steps up scrutiny of asset sales toensure any new owner has the financial and technical capacity tohandle decommissioning. Most controversially, it introducestrailing liability, modelled on the UK's North Sea regime,holding former owners of assets liable for decommissioning if acurrent owner goes bust.
Selling mature oil and gas fields to niche players with lowoverheads who can prolong the lives of the fields profitably hasbeen standard practice at ageing sites around the world,especially in the North Sea, U.S. Gulf of Mexico and offAustralia.
However, Australia acted after being left to handle thedecommissioning https://www.reuters.com/business/energy/australia-oil-industry-up-arms-over-proposed-decommissioning-levy-2021-06-29,estimated at up to A$1 billion ($725 million), of theLaminaria-Corallina oil fields in the Timor Sea, abandoned by asmall company when it collapsed in 2019.
Stricter criteria are expected to deter those kinds of salesin Australia at a time when several oil and gas fields arenearing the end of their lives off southeastern and WesternAustralia, to the chagrin of the industry.
"If you get everything else right, one would hope you wouldnever find yourself in a position where trailing liability hasto be exercised," said Andrew McConville, chief executive of theAustralian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, theindustry's main lobby group.
Already, Exxon Mobil Corp and partner BHP Grouppulled the sale of assets off southeastern Australiaafter a warning from government to be careful in choosingbuyers. BHP last month agreed instead to merge its petroleumbusiness with Australia's top independent gas producer WoodsidePetroleum.
AGEING ASIAN FIELDS
Around Southeast Asia there are hundreds of platformsnearing the end of their lives, but countries like Indonesia,Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam have no overarchingdecommissioning rules. Companies operate as contractors withproduction sharing contracts with the state.