Papua LNG Talks In ‘Mexican Standoff’ As Govt Seeks New Gas Deal

Post Courier | August 21, 2019

The Papua LNG negotiations in Singapore have broken down into a ‘mexican standoff’ between two major oil conglomerates and the PNG government.

Talks centred on the Papua LNG agreement, signed early this year between developer Total of France and the PNG government. Hopes were high, there was an air of anticipation. But over the weekend in Singapore, the talks in Asia’s scenic garden city state never eventuated. Instead, details are all being hushed up although there is really nothing to hide as each camp retreated their home countries.

The PNG government delegation led by Petroleum Minister Kerenga Kua returned quietly, empty handed and in low spirits.

The government is seeking to re-adjust the agreement, which seeks, among others, more for landowners. Total executives have shied away from an official comment as they told the paper the statement will have to be sent back to France for approval from the hierarchy which will take a week.

ExxonMobil and Oil Search Limited, the other big two in Papua New Guinea remained zipped.

But insiders from Singapore say that the big French oiler Total and powerful US ‘conglomerate’ ExxonMobil refused to back down from demands already made public by the PNG government.

The oil and gas giants remain adamant that PNG government to respect the gas agreement signed this year. The insiders said that there was more at stake if the agreement was aborted and so much money already wasted. They also told the Post-Courier from Singapore that whatever the outcome, the players were ready to take the matter to court.

“The PNG government must respect the agreement that was signed and there’s so much at stake if the deal is aborted. Of course the company stands to lose but the biggest losers will be the State,” the insider said.

“The players spent billions of US dollars to get to where they are right now.

“What if they sue the State and ask for all the monies to be reimbursed? I mean you not looking at millions, you looking at billions.”

Gulf Governor Chris Haiveta, who is leaning towards the developers, is in Australia for the investment conference in Sydney. He is also not talking to the media yet.

Mr Kua is back in Moresby, his return, quiet and unheralded. He said late last week before heading to Singapore that the deal for the Papua LNG project could be modified if a government review found its terms unfavorable.

But early this week, he cautioned that considering what was at stake, the people’s expectations must be guarded during this period.

“The negotiations could work out well or even disastrously, but either way, the people must be ready to accept whatever outcome.”

Yesterday the PNG government was contacted but the paper was advised an official statement will be released by before end of the week.

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Filed under Financial returns, Papua New Guinea

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