Sonali Paul | Reuters | June 26, 2019
Papua New Guinea’s new treasurer on Wednesday put Total SA, Exxon Mobil Corp , Newcrest Mining and their partners on notice that the country wants to extract more benefits from their gas and mining projects.
Treasurer Sam Basil said the country also needs better forecasts from Exxon and Total on the expected income flow from a $13 billion plan to double the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports. Basil was appointed earlier this month by Prime Minister James Marape, who led a revolt against former prime minister Peter O’Neill in May.
France’s Total is leading the Papua LNG project, which will develop the Elk-Antelope gas fields to feed two new LNG production units to be sited at the PNG LNG plant, run by Exxon.
At the same time, Exxon and its partners plan to add a third new unit at PNG LNG, which will partly be fed by another new field, P’nyang.
Total recently reached an agreement with the government setting terms for its Papua LNG project, while Exxon is in the process of negotiating a separate agreement with the government for P’nyang.
Treasurer Basil said the projects should all be treated as one, rather than “under the cloak of separate joint ventures”.
“I am putting each of the project partners in all of these projects on notice that the concerns of our people must be addressed through dialogue and negotiations with the state and that we expect all parties to contribute to a fair and equitable outcome,” he said.
Exxon’s original $19 billion PNG LNG project is the biggest foreign investment in the country and crucial to the economy, but the plant has been a disappointing contributor since it started exporting LNG in 2014.
Last year’s earthquake which forced a shutdown of PNG LNG dented the government’s take from the project more than Exxon had expected it would. The 2019 budget had assumed that oil and gas sector revenue would fall by 9.4 pct from 2018, but it actually fell by 16.4 percent, Basil said.
He plans to ask the Treasury and Exxon to come up with new detailed forecasts of future cash flows from the project to the national and provincial governments and local landowners.
He also said the government would put on hold talks with the owners of the Wafi Golpu gold project, Newcrest and South Africa’s Harmony Gold, until the state negotiating team has talked to the Morobe provincial government about its aspirations for the project.
“Our future prosperity depends on delivering these projects and delivering them well. But we must now find a way to ensure that these major resource project agreements capture enough value to the state and to our people,” he said.
Exxon and Total were not immediately available to comment. Newcrest had no immediate comment.