Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project

MACQUARIE Private Wealth estimates that a standalone LNG project on InterOil’s Elk-Antelope discoveries in Papua New Guinea, which Total and Oil Search have partnered into, may cost $US15 billion.
Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project Cost guestimate for PNG's second LNG project

This figure is the same as the initial capital expenditure estimate for the nation-building PNG LNG project - which blew out to $19 billion by the second half of 2013 amid a trend of rising construction costs worldwide.

The "standalone" term makes reference to how PNG LNG operator ExxonMobil had tried last year to negotiate for enough Elk-Antelope gas to underpin a third train of PNG LNG, with Oil Search being the next biggest PNG LNG stakeholder.

While the scope of any Elk-Antelope project will hinge on the outcome of Total-funded appraisal drilling of the carbonate plays, MPW said Oil Search remained confident of its legal position regarding the French supermajor's most recent buy-in to the relevant PRL15 block in March that it was disputing.

"A formal dispute resolution process has commenced, which will incorporate arbitration and injunctive relief," MPW said.

"However, given this is likely to be a protracted process and appraisal drilling is set to commence in the second half of 2014, Oil Search has separately commenced formation negotiations to achieve a commercial resolution sooner and therefore is seemingly hedging its bets."

Overall, MPW is bullish on Oil Search with an outperform rating on the stock and a 12-month price target of $9.50 per share, made when they closed at $8.66 each.

The broker believes Oil Search's looming presentation at Macquarie's conference on May 8 will be a price catalyst and even hinted that it could be the "best in show".

MPW is satisfied that PNG LNG drilling, with well productivity exceeding more than 200 million cubic feet per day, has proven that the existing well stock is more than adequate to meet total "upstream deliverability requirements" of 0.9-1 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

The broker was also encouraged by initial signs at Oil Search's Taza-2 appraisal well in Iraq's Kurdistan region and its solid oil production results in PNG.

"Overall an in-line operating result with growing confidence in a mid-2014 start-up for PNG LNG setting the stage for a strong operating performance this year," MPW summarised of Oil Search's recent quarterly results.

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