Japanese energy explorer Inpex Corp. on Feb. 12 boosted its full-year net profit forecast by 37%, citing a larger-than-expected contribution from its Ichthys liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Australia.

Net profit for Japan's biggest oil and gas producer is projected at 82 billion yen (US$742 million) for the year ending on March 31..

The revised profit estimate beat the mean forecast from a poll of nine analysts, according to Refinitiv.

"The Ichthys project has made more progress (in ramp-up) than we had expected," Masahiro Murayama, senior managing executive officer of Inpex, told a news conference.

Inpex now expects Ichthys to contribute 40 billion yen (US$362 million) to the final result,

"We might have been too cautious, but there were some uncertainties when we made the previous forecast," Murayama said.

The US$40 billion Ichthys LNG project, Japan's biggest overseas investment and the country's first major project as lead operator, started shipping LNG last October, after several delays and cost overruns.

"It will take more than one year, or nearly two years, for the project to reach its production plateau," Murayama said.

For the nine months ended on Dec. 31, Inpex reported a 17.2% increase in net profit to 62.6 billion yen, helped by higher oil prices.

But given a drop in oil prices since November, Inpex lowered its assumption of the average Brent oil price for the current financial year to $69.90 per barrel from its November estimate of $72.7. The average oil price a year earlier was $57.85.