(EnergyAsia, October 29, Thursday) — Australian upstream company Santos said ExxonMobil has raised the pre-front end engineering and design (FEED) estimate for its liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Papua New Guinea to US$15 billion.

Operator ExxonMobil provided the estimate which covers the project’s first phase on a preliminary basis as the contract awards have not yet been made.

Santos attributed the increased cost to the inclusion of pre-start-up operating costs and scope changes including acceleration of some works from later phases of the project. The plant’s output is also expected to increase from 6.3 million tonnes per year to 6.6 mt/y resulting from greater fuel efficiency.

Santos said work on the project is making progress, with an investment decision due by end-2009 and first gas output by early 2014.

The PNG LNG project proposes to commercialise the undeveloped gas and condensate resources in the Hides, Angore and Juha fields and the associate gas resources in the currently operating oil fields of Kutubu, Agogo, Gobe and Moran in the Southern Highlands and Western Provinces of PNG.  The gas will be transported by pipeline to an LNG facility 20 km northwest of Port Moresby on the coast of the Gulf of Papua.