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First shipment of coalseam gas-based LNG leaves Australia's east coast

Sydney — The inaugural shipment of LNG from Australia's east coast departed the port of Gladstone in Queensland late Monday, marking the start of supply from the world's first liquefaction facility to process coalseam gas.

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Loading of the 60,000 mt shipment onto the LNG carrier Methane Rita Andrea began on December 28 from BG Group's $20.4 billion Queensland Curtis LNG plant on Curtis Island in Gladstone harbor.

QCLNG is the first of three coalseam gas-to-LNG projects to be completed on Curtis Island. The first cargo is believed to be destined for China's state-owned CNOOC, QCLNG's largest buyer and a 50% equity holder in the project's first train.

A second cargo is scheduled to start loading onto the Methane Mickie Harper this week.

After the first few cargoes, BG plans to conduct scheduled performance testing of the plant.

The QCLNG project has begun producing from the first of two liquefaction trains, with the second train scheduled to be completed in the third quarter of 2015. At plateau production, expected during 2016, QCLNG will have an output of around 8 million mt/year of LNG.

"Extraordinary technology and the emergence of a burgeoning Asian market have allowed industry to produce and commercialize Queensland's enormous gas reserves," Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association Chief Executive David Byers said in a statement Tuesday.

QCLNG is Australia's fourth operating LNG project. The country already hosts the 16.3 million mt/year North West Shelf joint venture and 4.3 million mt/year Pluto project in Western Australia, and the 3.5 million mt/year Darwin LNG plant in the Northern Territory.

Another six projects representing a total investment of more than $180 billion are under development around the country. Once all the plants are up and running, Australia's LNG exports are expected to quadruple from the 23.9 million mt shipped in the financial year ended June 30, 2013, making the country the world's largest producer ahead of Qatar.

The other two Curtis Island projects are expected to start up this year. ConocoPhillips' 9 million mt/year Australia Pacific LNG plant is scheduled for first output in mid-2015, while Australian Santos' 7.8 million mt/year Gladstone LNG facility is expected to begin producing in the second half of the year.

--Christine Forster,
--Edited by Irene Tang,