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Australia-based Ichthys ships first LNG cargo to Japan

Sydney — The first shipment of LNG has departed from the Ichthys LNG plant at Darwin, Australia, and is en route to the Naoetsu LNG terminal in Niigata Prefecture in Japan, INPEX, who operates both Ichthys and Naeotsu, said Tuesday.

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The Northern Territory-based project plans to gradually lift production volumes of LNG to around 8.9 million mt/year of LNG when it reaches its production plateau, which " is equivalent to more than 10% of Japan's annual LNG import volume," the company said. About 70% of the LNG shipped by Ichthys is scheduled to be supplied to Japanese customers.

The departure of the LNG cargo follows the project's shipment of field condensate, which commenced on October 1.

In late September, INPEX sold its first spot condensate cargo -- a 650,000-barrel shipment to Trafigura loading Oct 28-31 and for delivery to Napa Napa refinery in Papua New Guinea, trading sources said. Another two cargoes, both for November loading, have also been sold recently.

The project is also scheduled to commence shipment of liquefied petroleum gas later this year, the company said.

Along with the 8.9 million mt/year of LNG, the facility is set to become Australia's largest condensate project with a production capacity of 100,000 b/d, and 1.65 million mt/year of LPG at its peak. It will pipe gas over 890 km from the offshore Ichthys field in the Browse Basin in northwestern Australia to the 8.9 million mt/year onshore LNG plant near Darwin.

The Ichthys LNG project is led by INPEX, which holds a 62.245% interest, alongside France's TOTAL (30%) and the Australian subsidiaries of Taiwan's CPC Corporation,(2.625%), Tokyo Gas (1.575%), Osaka Gas (1.2%), Kansai Electric Power (1.2%), JERA (0.735%) and Toho Gas (0.42%).

INPEX acquired the initial exploration permit for the project in 1998 and following development studies, announced final investment decision in January 2012. It has faced a number of delays over the recent years.

-- Nathan Richardson,

-- Abache Abreu,

-- Gawoon Phil Vahn,

-- Edited by Norazlina Jumaat,