(EnergyAsia, October 28 2010, Thursday) — Unrest stemming from disagreements between various landowner groups and labour unrest may delay the development of the US$15 billion ExxonMobil-led liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea.

Police are investigating a surprise attack in late September on LNG contractors Clough Niugini and Queensland company Curtain Brothers near Kaiam Ferry in the southern Gulf province of Kikori.

Local villagers were believed to have burned trucks and heavy machinery, although ExxonMobil has declined to comment on the incident. No one was injured during the attacks at night.

Earlier in July and August, the project was briefly halted by a labour dispute and a deadly tribal clash.

ExxonMobil has a 33.2% stake in the project, which is touted to double Papua New Guinea’s gross domestic product. The other shareholders include Oil Search Ltd (29%), the PNG government (16.6%), Santos Ltd (13.5%), Nippon Oil Corp (4.7%), local landowners (2.8%) and Petromin PNG (0.2%).

If completed on time, the 6.6-million-tonne-per-year project could export its first cargo in 2014. Its main customers are Taiwan’s CPC Corp, Japan’s Osaka Gas and Tokyo Electric and China’s Sinopec.