Oil and Gas

Tanker docks at ExxonMobil's Papua New Guinea LNG export terminal

SINGAPORE, April 2 (Reuters) - A liquefied natural gas (LNG) tanker has docked at ExxonMobil’s Papua New Guinea export plant, which has been shut since late February following a powerful earthquake, indicating that the facility is preparing to resume shipments.

The 172,000-cubic metre capacity LNG tanker Kumul, custom-built for the ExxonMobil operated PNG LNG project, is currently moored at the terminal, Thomson Reuters Eikon shiptracking data showed.

It has a draft of 90 percent, suggesting it is nearly full, after leaving Indonesia’s Bontang on March 26.

This is likely the LNG cargo ExxonMobil purchased last month to keep its PNG plant cold, an industry source said, but that could not be verified. Exxon officials could not be reached on Monday, a public holiday in Papua New Guinea.

LNG achieves its fluid status by being super-cooled to around minus 160 degrees Celsius (minus 260 degrees Fahrenheit).

A senior ExxonMobil executive said in March that the company was shipping in the cargo to keep the LNG export plant cool so it is ready to start production from the gas when it comes down from its Hides facility.

The company hopes to resume shipments from the export facility - one of its top performing assets in 2017 - by late April, or eight weeks after it shut following a 7.5 magnitude earthquake that killed dozens of people.

Led by Exxon, with a one-third stake, and its Australian partners Oil Search and Santos, PNG LNG is the impoverished nation’s biggest revenue earner.

Exxon and France’s Total plan to double their gas exports from Papua New Guinea to around 16 million tonnes a year at an estimated cost of $13 billion.

Reporting by Jessica Jaganathan Editing by Manolo Serapio Jr.