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Gas deal for Golar as Shell loses out

THE AUSTRALIAN

Matt Chambers | February 23, 2009

NORWEGIAN LNG shipper Golar has signed the first offtake agreement for liquefied natural gas produced from coal seam gas.

Golar agreed to take a 40 per cent stake in LNG Ltd’s $US500million ($779million) Gladstone LNG plant and buy all its product.

As revealed in The Australian in December, Golar has edged out energy giant Shell, which had been widely expected to take LNG produced from the plant after last year buying into Arrow Energy’s CSG reserves.

Arrow has a non-binding agreement to supply LNG Ltd’s plant and the option to take a 20per cent stake.

LNG and Golar are planning the first and smallest of five CSG-to-LNG plants at Gladstone and plan to be in production in late 2012, back from an earlier target of 2011.

“The selection of Golar LNG follows a comprehensive tender selection and negotiation process, which included several very competitive off-take and equity proposals,” LNG Ltd managing director Maurice Brand said.

Golar is LNG Ltd’s biggest shareholder, followed by Arrow.

Under the heads of agreement between Golar and LNG Ltd, all LNG from the planned 1.5-million tonne-a-year plant would be sold to Golar on a free-on-board basis.

No indication of prices was given by Golar, which announced the major deal on Friday night. The missing piece in the operation is a supply deal with Arrow, which recently said a firmer arrangement would be made after a sales agreement was reached.

Shell this month announced its intentions to build a multi-train LNG plant at Gladstone from Arrow’s gas reserves, in which it has a 30 per cent stake. Arrow has said it believes it can shore up enough gas to supply both plants.

Shell was the last of a group of energy majors, including ConocoPhillips and BG Group, to grab a share of Queensland’s CSG reserves and link with a local company to form Gladstone LNG export plans.

ConocoPhillips, which has teamed with Origin, has the biggest ground and ambitions, and is looking at building a plant of up to 14million tonnes a year.

LNG Ltd is expected to announce the deal to the stock exchange today.

Golar said it had progressed talks to sell the LNG on a long-term basis to a “credit-worthy” LNG buyer. It did not give any indication of where the gas would be delivered.

“The signing of the HOA is a vital part of delivering on our strategy of building a midstream LNG position for the company which covers liquefaction, shipping and re-gasification,” said Golar’s Australian-born chief executive, Gary Smith.

Separately, Woodside chief executive Don Voelte told the ABC’s Inside Business program yesterday he thought LNG plants would be built at Gladstone and that he expected “large consolidation”.

Asked if he was interested in moving into the sector, Mr Voelte said Woodside had enough gas projects on the west coast to keep it occupied for the next decade.

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