Quake in Papua New Guinea Leads Exxon to Shut Production, Processing

By Perry Williams | February 26, 2018

Exxon Mobil Corp. has shut production platforms and a processing plant in the highlands of natural gas exporter Papua New Guinea after an earthquake struck the Pacific nation.

The U.S. oil giant closed the facilities to assess damage from a magnitude 7.5 earthquake early Monday morning, it said in a statement. Administrative buildings, living quarters and a mess hall at the Hides operations in Hela Province were damaged, it said.

The shut Hides Gas Conditioning Plant processes natural gas and condensates, an ultra-light form of oil, before it’s shipped hundreds of kilometers to export facilities near the capital Port Moresby. The plant handles up to 1 billion cubic feet of gas daily from eight production wells as part of the Exxon-led PNG LNG project, according to the venture’s website.

Neither Exxon nor PNG LNG partner Oil Search Ltd. provided an update on exports of liquefied natural gas or condensates. Exxon said it’s putting in place plans to evacuate non-essential Hides staff due to damage to camp quarters and continuing aftershocks.

The earthquake has cut communications to the PNG LNG facilities and there is difficulty confirming reports of damage, Wapu Sonk, managing director of state-owned Kumul Petroleum, said in an emailed response to questions. Kumul holds a 16.8 percent share in the project, making it the third largest stakeholder.

Separately, Barrick Gold Corp. said its Porgera mine is secure and no injuries were reported. PanAust Ltd. said its Frieda River project was not affected.

State-owned Ok Tedi Mining Ltd. said its open pit copper, gold and silver mine and mill were not damaged, but that the access road to the mine has been blocked by a landslide. Water and concentrate pipelines were also damaged at the location of the slide, it said.

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