Chinese shadow over Petronet-LNG Gorgon talks

Vol 12, PW 20 (12 Mar 09) Midstream & Downstream

Petronet-LNG and Exxon are still talking, despite growing rumours that the US major has committed its share of Gorgon LNG to China, not India.

“The last face-to-face meeting (between Exxon and Petronet-LNG) was in Delhi three weeks ago,â€‌ reports a source. “Otherwise there is telephone contact almost daily.

â€‌ As recently as one month ago, Exxon representatives also visited Puthuvypeen Island, site of the under construction LNG receiving terminal off Kochi, and the most likely destination for part or all of its (3.75m t/y) allocation from Gorgon. But has Exxon signed away its share to China “No, nothing has been signed,â€‌ we hear.

“But it is not mutually exclusive that Exxon could do a deal with China and somebody else.â€‌ Translated, expect that to mean 2m t/y could go to China, with the balance 1.75m t/y for India.

“Exxon has always said it is in talks with several buyers,â€‌ adds our source. “But India is the only country Exxon has ever publicly disclosed it is talking to.

China has never been publicly mentioned.â€‌ Perhaps, but speculation that Exxon will sign away 2m t/y of its 3.75m t/y allocation from Gorgon to China intensified following a Bloomberg report on February 23 in which state-owned PetroChina chairman Jiang Jiemin confirmed a deal could be sealed by June.

If true, this would be a huge blow to Petronet-LNG managing director Prosad Dasgupta, who has fought hard to secure Exxon’s entire allocation for Kochi. Contacted by this report, Dasgupta puts on a brave face.

“I don’t think Exxon has committed its entire 3.75m t/y share of Gorgon LNG to China,â€‌ says Dasgupta. “As far as we know Exxon has neither committed this quantity to anyone nor has it informed us of any plans to do so.

â€‌ What is confirmed is that Petronet-LNG is expecting “very soonâ€‌ either a â€کyes’ or â€کno’ from Exxon to its price proposal for Gorgon LNG. “Everything will become clear soon,â€‌ adds an industry source.

“An announcement will be made shortly.â€‌