Hides gas plant stand-off continues

THE stand-off between local landholders and the Papua New Guinea government at the Hides gas plant is continuing, with some reports from Hela province saying the protest has already started impacting on LNG sales.
Hides gas plant stand-off continues Hides gas plant stand-off continues Hides gas plant stand-off continues Hides gas plant stand-off continues Hides gas plant stand-off continues

Haydn Black

Reporter

Radio NZ reported that the latest export shipment from the ExxonMobil-operated PNG LNG project had only half as much gas as usual.

While that seems unlikely given the short tenure of the protests, gas storage at Port Moresby and the solid performance of the plant to date, a spokesperson for ExxonMobil would neither confirm or deny any talk about production disruptions.

Yet with Oil Search due to report its half-year result shortly the early impact could soon be made clear.

The ExxonMobil spokesperson told PNG Industry News that the landowners were continuing to peacefully protest near the Hides plant, complaining that the benefits of the LNG projects still have not started flowing to Hela province despite an agreement signed with the government a decade ago.

"While this is a matter between the landowners and the government, we are doing everything we can to help facilitate communication between all parties," the spokesperson said.

"The Hides gas conditioning plant is continuing to operate [and] we are committed to meeting our contractual obligations to our long-term customers."

Landholders have "locked the gate" at Hides, using downed trees to restrict access to the site, and they have threatened to shut down the entire LNG project this month if the government doesn't respond adequately with the long-promised payments.

Speaking in parliament last week, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill said all outstanding payments would be made in due course, but he said the government was still trying to ensure it had recorded every person due payments.

A government delegation travelled to Hela last week for discussions with the landowners, but pleaded more time for the ongoing clan vetting processes to establish the legitimate landowners.

Talks continue, but the dispute has shown signs of spreading, with landowners from project areas in neighbouring Southern Highlands province indicating they wish to join the Hela landowners' protest as they too claim to be owed benefits.

The government has deployed extra police in the region, amid fears that landowner grievances could spill over into violence.

ExxonMobil and Oil Search have both said they are committed to maintaining a positive relationship with landowners, the government and the wider community.

The LNG plant owners have paid all royalties to the government, however the government has yet to release the funds.

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