Growth move from Oil Search

Oil Search is pushing on several growth options which may increase debt levels before the cash flow from the $19 billion PNG gas export project it holds a large stake in.

Oil Search is pushing on several growth options which may increase debt levels before the cash flow from the $19 billion PNG gas export project it holds a large stake in.

Initial shipments from the 6.9 million tonne a year project will take place next year, although Oil Search has refused to indicate the number of shipments, saying only that it will run at peak capacity from 2015.

ExxonMobil is the operator of the Oil Search gas export project with a one-third interest, while Oil Search has a 29 per cent share. Some of the initial cash from the project will go to lenders, which may limit its initial options.

Commissioning the first phase of the project was "imminent", Oil Search managing director Peter Botten said, with the two-phase project now 90 per cent complete.

Capital management will start in 2015, once the project reaches financial completion. The aim was to get "the balance of growth investment and capital management right".

"We have a range of highly attractive growth projects," Mr Botten said.

These span prospective oilfields in PNG and Kurdistan, as well as additional gas resources in PNG.

In Kurdistan, Oil Search has a potential 250-500 million barrel resource of recoverable oil, with a drilling program soon to begin to clarify the size of the oilfield. Depending on size, it could be piped through Turkey for sale.

Additionally, the Mananda field in PNG is expected to flow at a daily rate of around 5000 barrels from 2016.

Most attention is focused on the prospect of doubling the capacity of the PNG gas export project. This could be through a mix of Oil Search gas and by tapping gas held by others such as InterOil, another PNG explorer, which is negotiating options with ExxonMobil.

Mananda and the Taza project in Kurdistan could push the output to more than 25 million barrels equivalent annually from 2017.

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