Earthquake puts PNG LNG eight weeks away from production


It may take up to eight weeks to repair and restore production at the PNG LNG project following last week’s earthquake in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea, according to the operation’s joint venture partners.

PNG’s Highlands were rocked by a magnitude 7.5 earthquake at 3.44am local time on February 26. According to the United States Geological Survey (USGS), the quake hit about 90km south-west of Porgera at a depth of 35km.

Operator ExxonMobil has advised its ASX-listed minority partners at PNG LNG — Oil Search and Santos — of the plan to resume operations after it completed a preliminary assessment of the damage. ExxonMobil declared force majeure on exports from PNG LNG last Friday.

The project partners today provided an update on PNG LNG and its other assets in the country. Oil Search reported that there appeared to be minimal impact on the Gobe production facilities, and that the liquids export pipeline and offshore facilities were undamaged.

Despite the need for additional inspections, Oil Search expected oil production from the Gove field would likely recommence in the next one to two weeks. Oil Search added that damage to its Central Processing Facility is “less than feared,” with it expected to be operational in the next two to three weeks.

The Oil Search facilities that support PNG LNG are expected to be operational ahead of the restart of production at the project.

Oil Search managing director Peter Botten travelled to the PNG Highlands last week to see the impact of the earthquake.

“Seeing the devastation caused by the earthquake reinforced for me how fortunate Oil Search was not to have suffered any serious injuries within our workforce,” Botten said.

Santos, meanwhile, reported that recovery work at the Hides Gas Conditioning Plant had focused on restoring camp and associated facilities.

While the plant has been safely shut, Santos advised there was damage to various pieces of equipment and foundation support that have yet to be fully inspected and repaired.

The Adelaide-based company added that the production well remained safely shut in. “A detailed inspection of some well pads has been hampered due to earthquake-related impacts on the roads. It is hoped this work can be completed within the next week,” Santos stated.

In addition, ExxonMobil has brought forward maintenance activities at PNG LNG and has redeployed maintenance and support staff to assist.