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PERTH, November 27, AAP

November 27 2012, 7:18PM

Western Australian Premier Colin Barnett has renewed his push to develop the controversial Browse gas project onshore, despite joint-venture partner Shell dismissing his safety concerns about a floating option.

Mr Barnett on Tuesday confirmed that energy giant Royal Dutch Shell was discussing its preferred option of a floating liquefied natural gas (LNG) platform for the Browse project, near Broome, with joint venture Woodside Petroleum.

"It's pretty obvious that there's been some discussion in the joint venture about that," Mr Barnett told reporters in Perth.

"I'm reassured that Woodside continues to say that their focus is on James Price Point (as the preferred location) and bringing the gas onshore, so that's where it sits," Mr Barnett said.

Project operator Woodside has, for several years, come under fire for proposing an onshore processing hub at James Price Point in the environmentally significant Kimberley region.

Woodside is yet to decide whether to go ahead with the James Price Point proposal.

While Shell had said a floating LNG platform was "the way to go", the viability was yet to be proven, Mr Barnett said.

This was despite the WA government approving Shell's Prelude project in the state's north.

"Prelude is a small gas field that would not support a pipeline and onshore infrastructure, so in the case of small fields you can have a relatively modest floating LNG. But the Browse field is a massive gas reserve," Mr Barnett said.

"Around a third of the Browse field is owned by Western Australia because it surrounds an island structure."

Mr Barnett's comments about ownership cast doubt over which tier of government would be responsible for approving a floating LNG project.

The WA Premier said the environmental risks were greater for a floating LNG project than onshore project.

Floating LNG would mean that all of the gas and jobs would go offshore, he said.

Shell Australia chairwoman Ann Pickard said she did not agree with Mr Barnett's comments because safety was "absolutely paramount" in the design of the LNG vessels.

However, she didn't say whether she believed Browse should be a floating project.

It was "an option for just about anything offshore Australia" because it was cheaper than a traditional gas project, which was becoming increasingly costly, she said.

While Shell is widely accepted as the leader in floating LNG technology, other oil and gas companies considering such a move include Malaysia's state owned Petronas, ConocoPhillips, France's GDF Suez and Thai-listed PTTEP.

By Kim Christian