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Does This $2.2 Billion Deal Reveal Where The NatGas Sector Is Going?

Papua New Guinea LNG

Lots going on in the global natural gas sector this week, with Argentina unveiling on Friday a very attractive fixed price of $7.50/MMBtu through to end 2018, and Israel’s government announcing on Sunday a new plan to fast-track the Leviathan offshore mega-project. But perhaps the biggest news in natgas came from a completely different part of the world. Papua New Guinea.

That’s where Australia’s Oil Search Ltd. announced on Friday one of the largest M&A deals seen in recent memory for oil and gas. The firm said it will bid $2.2 billion for PNG natural gas developer Interoil Corp. Related: OPEC Head Calls for $65 Oil

This is a big acquisition — in a time when most E&Ps are shying away from buying assets. But looking at the numbers behind the deal, there’s a strong logic here for Oil Search. The Interoil assets that Oil Search will acquire include 6.2 trillion cubic feet of reserves in the Elk-Antelope fields of eastern PNG. These fields are critical in feeding into the Papua liquefied natural gas (LNG) export project, an operation being developed by Interoil and partner Total.

Oil Search isn’t far from this story - owning a 29 percent stake in the nearby PNG LNG project, which is already in operation under the guidance of ExxonMobil. By acquiring Interoil, Oil Search will now gain a 29 percent interest in the new Total-operated project. In effect, Oil Search is spending $2.2 billion to double-down on PNG natgas. Likely because of this area’s proximity to the world’s top natural gas market: Asia. Related: Why Cheap Shale Gas Will End Soon

PNG is one of the shortest sails to Asia in terms of LNG-supplying nations. And as the chart below of global natgas pricing shows, Asia is the place to be today when it comes to selling natgas — with prices in the region last year averaging a world-leading $8/MMBtu.

Source: International Gas Union

All of which shows there’s still a lot of interest in the right oil and gas projects, even amid today’s depressed global market. Location and regional pricing is key — watch for the strongest and most well-positioned projects to start separating from the pack in terms of value.

Here’s to picking your spots,

By Dave Forest

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