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A major gas field off the northwest Australian coast will undergo development, but it just won’t happen as soon as Woodside Petroleum wanted because the company canned plans for a $47 billion plant to process the gas for export.

Because of risings costs, Woodside decided to hold off on plans to build a processing plant at James Price Point in the West Kimberley region of Western Australia state because “the proposed concept doesn’t provide the economic return required to proceed.”

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Woodside will begin talks with its joint venture partners, which include Shell Australia, about alternatives for the Browse gas field.

Options include building a floating liquefied natural gas plant or piping the gas to existing LNG facilities to the southwest.

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Woodside Chief Executive Peter Coleman said the decision to dump the plan for James Price Point was the result of rising costs. Australia’s mining and natural gas boom has increased wages and pushed up the Australian dollar.

“We do believe that Browse will get developed,” he told said.

Woodside had been looking at alternatives to a processing plant at James Price Point, but said they were not nearly as far developed as the original plan for the facility there.

“We’ve already come out and said things like floating technology, for example, is a technology that Woodside supports,” Coleman said. “Whether that’s appropriate for a Browse development will need to be determined by the joint venture over time.”

Coleman said it could be another four or five years before an alternative for the Browse gas field was ready for final approval. The James Price Point plant, which would have been among the world’s biggest, had been on the drawing board since 2009.

Shell’s Australian boss Ann Pickard said its floating technology would be the fastest, most economic and best technical solution for processing gas from the Browse field.

“Floating LNG can bring significant long term, sustainable jobs to Western Australia, Australia, and the Kimberley, as well as providing employment and business opportunities for Kimberley indigenous people,” Pickard said.

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