Since the beginning of the year, E&P activity has been slow among major companies operating in Papua New Guinea (PNG), partially due to ongoing COVID-19 restrictions.

The last exploration well drilled in the region was in 2019, with no new wells likely to be drilled during the remainder of the year, according to data from Enverus.

“E&P activities had been slowed with active companies like Exxon Mobil, Total and Santos implementing new exploration strategy for their assets in PNG following the downturn and the change of government in 2019” which led to negotiation for new fiscal and gas agreement, Enverus senior manager Chester Chua told Hart Energy.

However, the potential exists for new project development in the near future. According to Chua, Exxon Mobil Corp. subsidiary Esso PNG P’nyang Ltd. is moving forward with development of a project in the P’nyang Field after completing a fiscal and gas agreement with the PNG government in February.

Here’s a look at other recent PNG activity.


French operator TotalEnergies SE’s Papua LNG project will launch the first phase of FEED studies for its upstream production facilities, the company announced in a press release on July 20.

In addition, FEED studies for downstream liquefaction facilities are advancing, keeping pace with the overall project schedule, according to the release. The current timeline places the launch of the integrated FEED in fourth-quarter 2022, with a final investment decision by the end of 2023 and start-up at the end of 2027.

Hart Energy August 2022 - International Exploration and Production Highlights Papua New Guinea - TotalEnergies Papua LNG joint venture Map
The Papua LNG joint venture is committed to developing a landmark project in terms of sustainability, biodiversity and low-carbon emissions. (Source: TotalEnergies SE)

In alignment with the joint venture’s sustainability and low-carbon goals, the project will also incorporate a carbon capture and storage element to reinject the fields’ native CO₂ into reservoirs.

“The Papua LNG project is well positioned to contribute to growth in LNG supply worldwide, especially for customers in Asia seeking to decarbonize from coal to gas, in line with our strategy to lower global greenhouse-gas emissions,” Julien Pouget, senior vice president of Asia Pacific for exploration and production and renewable at TotalEnergies, said in the release.

The project, located northwest of Port Moresby, PNG, connects to the Elk and Antelope onshore fields in Blocks PRL 15 and CPF, respectively, through a pipeline.


In its second-quarter activity and earnings report, Australian operator Santos Ltd. reported a slight decrease in total production between its first and second quarters, due in part to major unplanned maintenance outages at PNG LNG, as well as at Darwin LNG and the Cooper Basin in Australia.

In spite of that, the company’s PNG production was 10.4 MMboe in the second quarter out of the total 25.5 MMboe produced across Santos’ other assets. This made Papua New Guinea the most profitable region for the company for the second quarter in a row.

“Strong production at PNG LNG was maintained during the second quarter with the plant operating at an annualized rate of 8.5 mtpa [million tonnes per annum], down slightly from 8.8 mtpa in the first quarter, due to planned maintenance completed in April and May. The project shipped 28 cargoes in the quarter, including four (JKM-priced) spot cargoes,” the report stated.

“A three-week planned maintenance outage was completed at the Santos-operated facilities during the quarter,” it continued. “The coiled tubing campaign in the Moran Field was completed with Moran 15ST2 returned to full production after being offline for more than a year.”

Santos’ interest in PNG LNG rose to 42.5% from 13.5% in December 2021 when it acquired major PNG producer Oil Search and its assets.

“Santos is positioned as a leading and reliable LNG supplier into Asia, and we are well placed to take advantage of growing Asian demand for LNG, which is forecast to double by 2050,” Santos managing director and CEO Kevin Gallagher commented in the report.