THE US$6 BILLION Equus deepwater fields look set to finally be developed after Hess Corporation, the operator and 100 per cent licence holder, struck a deal with the North West Shelf (NWS) partners to process the gas at their Karratha gas plant.

Hess will pay the NWS partners – including operator Woodside Petroleum, BHP Billiton, BP, Chevron, Shell, and Japan Australia LNG – tolling fees to use the Karratha facility to prepare gas for export to Asia-Pacific.

Hess had been in discussions with WA’s liquefied natural gas players for several years to secure a facility to process gas from the remote fields after deciding not to pursue a standalone facility.

The NWS partners signed a letter of intent with Hess in December outlining an agreement to toll gas production through the group’s existing infrastructure, though Hess said a final investment decision was not expected before 2017.

A tie-in and operational integration front-end engineering and design (FEED) studies agreement is expected to be executed for the project in early 2015.

Hess said it would begin carrying out joint engineering studies and discussing further commercial opportunities with NWS partners in the near future.

Hess president Greg Hill said the deal would bring together NWS’s proven track record in processing and liquefaction with Hess’s deepwater drilling and development capabilities.

“The combination provides an attractive option for Hess to commercialise its important Equus natural gas resource in a manner that delivers secure, reliable energy supplies into Asia Pacific LNG markets,” Mr Hill said.

Though the exact size of Equus has not been revealed by Hess, analysts have speculated it may contain one to two trillion cubic feet of gas.

The fields are situated in the WA-390-P and WA-474-P permits, which cover over 400,000 hectares about 185 kilometres off the north west coast.