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Darwin LNG to undergo planned maintenance starting end April 2012

Australia's Darwin LNG will undergo a scheduled maintenance at its 3.6million mt/year complex, which is expected to begin in the last week of April2012, Paul Dubuisson, vice president of operations drilling and supply chainat ConocoPhillips, said on the sidelines of the 2011 South East Asia AustraliaOffshore Conference Thursday.

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There will be a "dual-shutdown" at both the offshore facility at theBayu-Undan gas field in the Timor Sea and the onshore Darwin plant located atPoint Wickham.

The onshore plant will be shut for 30-35 days, while the offshoreplant will be shut for a slightly shorter period, Dubuisson said adding thatthe company is still finalizing the maintenance timing.

The plants are typically shut every two to three years for regulatoryand inspection checks, and to conduct maintenance work such that operationefficiency can be improved, according to Dubuisson.

ConocoPhillips operates and holds 57.2% of the Darwin LNG project, whichstarted up in 2006, processing gas from the Bayu-Undan offshore field. Santosholds 11.4% of the plant, alongside Japan's Inpex (11.3%), Italian major Eni(11%), and Japanese term LNG customers Tokyo Electric Power Company and TokyoGas (9.2%).

Dubuisson also said ConocoPhillips remains open to an expansion at theDarwin LNG plant, which could see capacity reach 10 million mt/year.

However, he added that no concrete time frame is in plan yet.

Platts reported in April that Australian upstream company Santos wasunable to convince ConocoPhillips of the merits of expanding their 3.6million mt/year Darwin LNG plant, despite holding nearby gas reserves,according to Santos CEO David Knox.

Meanwhile, Dubuisson said Australia could become the world'ssecond-largest LNG supplier by 2020, after Qatar, rising from the sixthposition achieved in 2009, if all the current planned LNG projects gothrough, which could see Australia's LNG export capacity quadruple.

LNG projects in Australia have an advantage over those in Middle East asthe shipping distance to traditional buyers like Japan, South Korea andTaiwan and new entrants such as coastal China and Singapore, is significantlyshorter.

"With new markets emerging west of the Malacca Strait, such as coastalIndia and Thailand, Australia is uniquely positioned to compete," Dubuissonsaid.

"Natural gas is definitely an integral part of the global energyequation," he said, adding that "gas is going to remain the world's leadingbaseload power generation fuel" due to the abundant reserves and lowgreenhouse gas emissions.

The two-day conference in Darwin, Australia, started October 6 and endsFriday.

--Chloe Hang, chloe_hang@platts.com