Woodside cuts output forecast 9.6% on shutdown, vessel delay

Woodside Petroleum Ltd. (WPL), Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer, cut its production target by as much as 9.6 percent after a shutdown at its Pluto project and a vessel refurbishment delay. The shares fell.

Output for 2013 will be between 85 million barrels of oil equivalent and 89 million barrels, down as much as 9.6 percent from a previous forecast of 88 million barrels to 94 million barrels, the Perth-based company said today in a statement.

An unplanned shutdown of the liquefied natural gas processing unit at the A$15 billion ($14 billion) Pluto project in Western Australia was caused by a technical issue, the company said without providing additional details, sending its shares down 3.4 percent. Production will resume shortly, Woodside said, without specifying a date.

“To have what is a fairly major interruption this fresh, not even 18 months into full-scale production, is quite disappointing and justifies the market’s reaction,” Evan Lucas, a Melbourne-based market strategist at IG Markets Ltd., said by phone. “It’s disappointing that they are being interrupted by technical complications.”

Woodside fell A$1.20 to A$34.46 at the close in Sydney. Earlier it fell as much as 5.1 percent, the most since Nov. 25, 2011. Australia’s benchmark S&P/ASX 200 Index declined 1.9 percent.

Pluto had met or exceeded production targets since it began operating in April 2012, Laura Lunt, a spokeswoman for the company said by phone from Perth.

Vincent Delay

Delays to the scheduled refurbishment of the Vincent floating production storage and offloading vessel meant output at that facility won’t restart until October, the company said in its statement.

Woodside’s former chairman Geoff Donaldson died last week at the age of 99, the company said in a separate e-mailed statement. Donaldson helped to found Woodside in 1954 and served as chairman for 28 years to 1984, it said.

“Without his personal drive and perseverance Woodside would not have become the company it is today,” Chief Executive Officer Peter Coleman said in the statement.