The ABC's PNG correspondent Liam Fox said the following on his twitter account this morning.
"[Prime Minister] O'Neill said govt ‘will assist InterOil move faster on its devp [development] timelines', ‘we'll conclude devp [development] arrangements before the year ends'" he tweeted in response to a question.
This snippet matches what an industry source recently told PNGIndustryNews.net, which was that O'Neill wanted the outcome in time to announce it for the 12th PNG Mining and Petroleum Investment Conference which will be held in Sydney during early December.
InterOil's hunt for a government-acceptable operator of the project started eleven months ago.
The process was triggered by criticism from Petroleum and Energy Minister William Duma, who has repeatedly warned the project lacked a world recognised LNG operator, as required by the project agreement struck in late 2009.
The time lost on the operator hunt has hit project timelines.
A recent Korean media report indicated that the project might target first exports at the end of 2017.
InterOil chief executive officer Phil Mulacek said it would be late 2015 or early 2016, "depending on the partner", in a conference call earlier this month.
As of last year, the 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 is also a proposed ramp-up aiming to hit up to 8Mtpa from the total project through 2015 and 2016.
In 2009, the project was based on a 7.6-10.6Mtpa LNG plant near Port Moresby, back when it was known as the Liquid Niugini Gas project.
While he is against a phased development approach, Duma has indicated he is comfortable with the LNG plant being based in Gulf province, which is home to InterOil's Elk-Antelope discoveries that underpin the project.