Papua New Guinea signals backing of Total LNG deal

FILE PHOTO: A logo for oil giant Total is seen at a petrol station in London February 12, 2008. REUTERS/Stephen Hird/File Photo

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Papua New Guinea signaled on Sunday it was backing a previously agreed liquefied natural gas (LNG) deal with French oil major Total SA TOTFPA>, although it said that some terms still needed negotiating.

The deal, for a project called Papua LNG, was agreed in April but put up for review after the prime minister who signed it was ousted in a parliamentary vote in May, following a political crisis caused by discontent over the distribution of resource riches.

On Sunday, Petroleum Minister Kerenga Kua, who was appointed to the portfolio in June by new Prime Minister James Marape, said his government “in principle” stood behind the project.

Papua LNG, a joint venture between Total, Exxon Mobil Corp XOM.N and Australia's Oil Search Ltd OSH.AX, is part of a $13 billion project set to double the country's exports of LNG.

“However, the state has reserved its rights to discuss a shortlist of matters to be discussed with the developers,” Kua said in an e-mailed statement.

“We believe that what we have discussed and agreed to are favorable and will not affect the general economics and fiscal terms of the Papua LNG Gas Agreement.”

He added that finalizing the details should not take more than two weeks.

Reporting by Tom Westbrook; Writing by Lidia Kelly; Editing by Kenneth Maxwell