Woodside Energy Group (ASX:WDS) is still very much an oil and gas operator – and certainly even more of one since it completed its acquisition of BHP’s petroleum arm – and this couldn’t be any clearer when you consider its recent guidance.

The major flagged that it would spend between US$6bn ($8.8bn) and US$6.5bn on big ticket items in 2023 with fully 50% of that on its Scarborough gas field in the waters off Western Australia’s Carnarvon Basin and a substantial part – about 20% – on the Sangomar oil development in Senegal.

Production is expected to range from 180 million barrels of oil equivalent (MMboe) to 190MMboe with its Mad Dog Phase 2 in the Gulf of Mexico expected to start production in the middle of 2023, offsetting a four-week turnaround at Pluto LNG.

Sangomar is also expected to start oil production in late 2023 though the company won’t credit any production from the project that year.

And this focus is likely to be hugely lucrative for the company with chief executive officer Meg O’Neill flagging operating cash forecast of between US$7bn and US$9bn over the next five years.

That is not to say that oil and gas is the be all and end all for the company though.

While its critics might accuse Woodside of not doing enough for the environment – and perhaps fairly enough _ it is clearly aware of the way the wind blows and is looking to invest US$5bn in new energy and lower carbon services by 2030.

Does this represent just a fraction of its oil and gas investments? Certainly.

Could the company invest more? Possibly.

However, for the context of this discussion – it’s still a level of investment equal to or outgunning the combined efforts of junior players in the sector.

And it is certainly enough for a planned hydrogen refuelling station near Perth and the H2OK project in the US, which is up for an investment decision next year for production start in 2025.

Gas bidding war looming

Like the proverbial spark that set off a forest fire, Strike Energy’s (ASX:STX) all-scrip bid for West Erregulla gas field partner Warrego Energy (ASX:WGO) has unleashed what might just be the beginnings of a classic bidding war.

The operators’ initial offer of 0.7142 STX shares for every WGO share was quickly trumped by Beach Energy’s (ASX:BPT) offer of 17c cash for each WGO share.

A subsequent attempt by Warrego’s advisers to get a better deal led Beach, which has a 50% non-operating interest in the nearby Waitsia gas field, to up its offer to 20c per share plus the right to receive the net sale proceeds from the sale of Warrego’s Spanish assets.

This was found by Warrego’s directors to be a superior offer to Strike’s offer, which had increased to 0.775 STX shares, and it seemed to be a done deal.

At least until Australia’s richest person – that’s Gina Rinehart for those living under a rock, (which is probably hers) – lobbed a 23c per share cash offer through Hancock Energy, leading Warrego to issue a notice to Beach that it had five days to match (or possibly better) the offer under the mid-cap’s Scheme Implementation Deed.

The scramble for Warrego is certainly due to its share of the already impressive looking West Erregulla gas field in the Perth Basin and is a clear indication that companies are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of securing energy supplies.

Let the fireworks begin.