Australia Postpones EIS Decision for Origin-ConocoPhillips Project
Asia Pulse Pte Ltd
Wednesday, December 15, 2010

An Australian ministerial decision on the environmental impact statement (EIS) for the Australia Pacific LNG joint venture's A$35 billion (US$34.88 billion) project in Queensland has been delayed.

The joint venture, a partnership between Origin Energy Ltd (ASX:ORG) and ConocoPhillips, says a determination by federal Environment Minister Tony Burke on the EIS for their coal seam gas-to-liquefied natural gas (LNG) project has been extended from the current deadline of December 21 to February 22, 2011.

"The minister advised this additional time was required because of the scale and complexity of the Australia Pacific LNG project," Australia Pacific LNG said in a statement on Wednesday.

"He noted the extension was not for the purpose of seeking further information, but rather to allow sufficient time for a full assessment of the project and in recognition of the impact of the forthcoming Christmas and New Year holiday period."

The project will involve the progressive development of coal seam gas fields in south central Queensland over a 30-year period and a 450km transmission pipeline from the gas fields to Curtis Island near Gladstone, where an LNG facility will be built.

The project's EIS was approved by Queensland's coordinator-general on November 9.

"Commonwealth approval is the next step in gaining the necessary regulatory approvals for the project in order to pave the way for a final investment decision," APLNG project director Page Maxson said.

"The project will not be able to proceed to FID until, at least, such time as the EIS approval process is complete."

The project was put under a cloud last month after traces of contaminants including the carcinogen benzene were found in fluid samples taken from eight of its CSG exploration wells in Queensland.

But earlier this month, APLNG said a comprehensive investigation into traces of benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene and xylenes confirmed no significant risk to the environment or human health associated with its coal seam gas exploration activities in October.

Separately on Wednesday, Origin announced it had bought the retail businesses of NSW government power distributors, Integral Energy and Country Energy, and the output of generator Eraring Energy, for $3.25 billion, which Origin said was a "fair price".

Shares in Origin finished up 30 cents, or 1.79 per cent, at $17.10.

(C) 2010 Asia Pulse Pte Ltd.