(EnergyAsia, June 17 2013, Monday) — Angola has exported its first cargo of liquefied natural gas (LNG) with the start-up of its long-delayed US$10 billion plant near the northern city of Soyo along the Congo River, said owner and operator Angola LNG Ltd.

Sonangol, the West African nation’s state oil and gas company which owns a 22.8% stake in Angola LNG, bought the cargo and shipped it to Brazil.

“The first cargo is being shipped to Brazil by the SS Sonangol Sambizanga, one of seven 160,000-cubic metre LNG vessels that are under long-term charter to the project,” said Angola LNG.

The 5.2-million tonnes/year plant was due to start up in 2011 and again last year, but was delayed by technical problems. The plant, which also produces 63,000 b/d of natural gas liquids for export and 125 million cubic feet per day of natural gas for domestic consumption, is due to be shut down again for further tests, the company said.

As the first new source of supply to the global LNG market, Angola LNG said the plant will help meet the increasing global demand for the fuel.

Artur Pereira, head of Angola LNG’s marketing department, said:

“The world LNG market is expected to remain tight over the coming years, with very limited new capacity coming on-stream. We are delighted to be producing and shipping our first LNG cargo.”

Antonio Orfao, Angola LNG chairman, said:

“The project provides a solution to minimise flaring and environmental pollution by gathering associated gas from Angola’s offshore oil fields to provide clean and reliable energy to our customers and a return on investment for our shareholders.”

Chevron Corp, Angola LNG’s operator with a 36.4% stake, said the start-up of the country’s first LNG plant represents an important milestone in its plan to grow production. The US major is represented by subsidiary Cabinda Gulf Oil Company Limited in one of Africa’s largest energy projects.

George Kirkland, Chevron’s vice chairman, said the project will help commercialise natural gas resources in western Africa to meet the region’s and world’s growing energy demand.

Ali Moshiri, president of Chevron Africa and Latin America Exploration and Production Company, said the project is expected to contribute to the development of the natural gas industry and economy of Africa’s second largest oil producer.

Angola LNG will use associated natural gas produced from crude oil fields and non-associated gas from other offshore fields operated by Chevron and its partners. The Soyo project is expected to reduce natural gas flaring and greenhouse gas emissions from offshore producing areas, and support continued offshore oil field development.

The other partners in the Soyo LNG plant include France’s Total, UK’s BP and Italy’s ENI, each with a 13.6% interest. The project has an expected life of at least 30 years.