Woodside Petroleum Ltd. on Oct. 18 said it was aiming to bring forward the target date for approving the mammoth Browse gas project off northwest Australia by a year to 2020, with the $15 billion cost estimate potentially being pared.

Woodside, operator and top stakeholder in Browse, expects the earlier final investment decision thanks to recent progress on technical contracts and commercial agreements for processing gas from the project, Woodside CFO Sherry Duhe said.

"It is something that technically we're quite confident about at this point. And the progress that we're making, in particular on getting very imminently to sign the preliminary agreements, is also supporting that as well," Duhe told Reuters.

Woodside is driving Browse and the $11 billion Scarborough project, also off northwestern Australia, looking to capitalise on an LNG supply gap expected to open up in the early 2020s.

"It's really about us having the confidence to proceed and knowing that the market is there," Duhe said in an interview after the company released its quarterly production report.

Browse, the biggest undeveloped gas resource off northwestern Australia, has been stuck on the drawing board for years as plans for onshore and floating LNG developments estimated at up to $45 billion were scrapped.

The development cost has been slashed as Browse will now feed the existing North West Shelf LNG plant, rather than requiring a new plant to be built. And contractors have indicated there might be opportunities to trim the estimated $15 billion cost of the project, Duhe said.

Royal Dutch Shell, BP and PetroChina, along with Japan's Mitsubishi Corp and Mitsui & Co, are Woodside's partners in Browse.

"BP supports developing the Browse resources as soon as possible and is working hard with its JV partners to achieve that," a BP spokeswoman said.

However, a Mitsui spokesman said the joint venture had yet to agree on a 2020 target for a final decision.

Shell deferred to Woodside for comment, while Mitsubishi and Petrochina declined to comment.