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Lloyds List: Petrofac invests in Timor Sea gas project

Martyn Wingrove
Published: Jun 07, 2007

PETROFAC has farmed into MEO Australia’s potential Tassie Shoal gas project off northwest Australia aspart of its resources investment strategy.

The London-listed engineering group has taken a 10% stake in Timor Sea permit NT/P68, which is 300 km off the Darwin coast and holds the previously drilled Heron gas discovery.

As part of the deal with block operator MEO, Petrofac will help to fund two appraisal wells this year in the licence area and can take control of future phases that may lead to production and export of methanol or gas by 2012.

If this year’s appraisal wells are successful, Petrofac will be offered more equity in the permit and will become operator for new delineation work and the field’s development phases.

‘Subject to the results of the appraisal programme, it is anticipated that the accumulations in the block may be of sufficient size to be commercialised either by pipeline to the mainland or to the Tassie Shoal project,’ said a Petrofac statement.

As one of its options, MEO is considering building an offshore platform to manufacture methanol from the large gas resources in the Timor Sea.

Under its initial plans a methanol production plant and utilities module will be mounted on a concrete gravity base structure, which also contains methanol storage tanks.

There will also be an accommodation and controls fixed steel platform installed adjacent to concrete GBS, connected by a bridge-link.

There could also be a single point mooring system for loading methanol into export tankers.

‘This farm-in provides Petrofac with a low-risk opportunity to gain an operator position in a potentially significant offshore development, which may incorporate a liquefied natural gas facility,’ said Petrofac chief executive Amjad Bseisu.

The two wells will be drilled this year into the identified Heron North and Heron South structures.

If this is successful engineering work can begin on the double-platform development, or on the second alternative an offshore LNG producing structure.

The primary commercial focus on the Tassie Shoal project remains the resolution of the gas supply.

MEO may ultimately secure third party gas for this project, including supply from the nearby Evans Shoal gas accumulation.

If the methanol project is taken further, MEO believes the first plant could begin commissioning late in 2011 and be capable of full methanol production from the start of 2012. The methanol would be exported by tankers to terminals mostly around Asia.

Early designs of the Tassie Shoal project show the process plant has an estimated weight of 30,000 tonnes and will be able to produce 5,000 tonnes a day, or 1.8m tonnes annually, of chemical grade methanol.

The plant would sit on the deck of the concrete substructure, which is around 180 m long by 100 m wide.

The ballast tanks within the structure will enable it to float while it is towed from the construction site to Tassie Shoal. These ballast tanks would then be filled with seawater so that the structure rests on the sea floor.

Following the location and ballasting of the GBS, a small amount of armour rock would be installed around the outer perimeter of the substructure to prevent scouring by the wave action.

The concrete structure will be able to store about 110,000 tonnes of methanol product.

Tassie Shoal lies close to existing large gas discoveries including Evans Shoal, Sunrise and Troubadour, which are operated by Shell and Woodside.

These are known to be large gas structures, but their development has always been held back by lack of infrastructure in the region for producing commercial liquids, which are easier to transport and market.

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