|Gulf LNG project map courtesy of Interoil (captions truncated).|
|Peter O'Neill on the campaign trail.|
The most recent spate of newsflow against InterOil was based on Petroleum Minister William Duma’s decision to issue a notice of intention to terminate the government’s project agreement with InterOil in six months.
Duma’s previous criticism of the project has been centred on how it lacked a promised world class LNG operator. He has also promoted Royal Dutch Shell as a good candidate for this role.
While InterOil’s formal process to find a world class operator has been ongoing since October, O’Neill seems to know there is a genuine effort to bring in a big player to lead the project.
“I am fully aware that InterOil is committed to developing the project and I urge them to proceed quickly to doing so,” O’Neill said according to The National.
“I am also fully aware that the company has been deliberate in their desire to secure a recognised LNG development major as a partner for the project in compliance with internationally recognised corporate ethics and protocols.”
Treasurer Don Polye revealed that Chevron executives had flown into PNG to look at the Gulf LNG project while he was election campaigning. Of course, any confirmation by InterOil will not come as formal joint venture negotiations typically involve confidentiality agreements.
In light of some of the bad press InterOil has received over past months, O’Neill reportedly said he was concerned that a number of public statements in the media had the potential to create uncertainty and cast aspersions on the corporate standing of genuine long-term foreign investors in PNG.
“InterOil has shown that it is one of those genuine long-term foreign investors who have stood by PNG during the hard economic times of the 1990s when others decided to pack up and leave,” he reportedly said. “They have our full support in this project.
“I want to reassure InterOil and the investment community that our government fully supports foreign investment and we are committed to making sure that necessary assistance and facilitation is provided to secure business licenses, registration and other go-forward prerequisites required to conduct investment and business in PNG.”
Back in 2009, the project was known as Liquid Niugini Gas and was based on a 7.6-10.6 million tonnes per annum LNG plant near Port Moresby.
As of last year, InterOil the rebadged Gulf LNG project was targeting five million tonnes per annum in 2014, with 3Mtpa from an Energy World Corporation-designed onshore modular LNG plant in Gulf province and the rest from a floating LNG facility.
There was also a proposed ramp-up aiming to hit up to 8Mtpa from the total project through 2015 and 2016.