Japan’s Abe spurs PNG interest

Gas supplies sufficient for 25 years

TWO new Japanese-initiated petrochemical plants – one each in Papua New Guinea and West Papua, Indonesia are set to pick up green lights as feasibility studies open new hopes for creating local petrol sufficiency in parts of the region. To bolster Japanese interest in PNG, a reciprocal visit to Port Moresby by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe from July 10-12 has been scheduled in response to Peter O’Neill turning up in Tokyo last month to watch PNG-supplied gas hit the country’s power supply stream. The petrochemical plant on the PNG divide – marking the biggest financial undertaking by Japanese firms in PNG – has been attributed as a spin off investment emanating from the island nation’s mega-rich multinational LNG project, which rolled out production last month amidst forecasts of invigorating growth in the resourcesladen country.

Around Port Moresby there is a new wave of optimism that an industrial and logistics corridor will open up over the next five years in the vicinity of the capital as a result of the ExxonMobil giant LNG project. Prime Minister Peter O’Neill’s trip to Japan also served to confirm his promise to fast-track moves by two Japanese consortiums to inject between $US 1-2 billion (2.03 to 4.06 billion kina) in a petrochemical plant with a potential to generate 5,000 jobs during construction and production life of the operations. It will also mark a new era of a gradual stagnation or to lesser extent decline in PNG’s dependence on investments by Australian companies – which have poured in excess of $US20 billion over four decades since independence and today account for $US5.5 billion in two-way trade between the colony-coloniser countries.

In the wake of highly-successful LNG project, several Japanese multinationals have been hungry for a slice of PNG’s prosperity. When some Japanese investors came to PNG last year to explore petrochemical prospects in the country, O’Neill said his government will allocate a portion of the Konebada Petroleum Park. “My government is committed to supporting industries that add value to our natural gas reserves, which (are) good for the country,” he noted. PNG has sufficient gas not only to export but also to use for downstream processing on projects like the petrochemical industry being proposed by the Japanese giants Mitsubishi and Itochu.

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