GDF SUEZ will consider building a pipeline to Darwin from its Bonaparte LNG project, located 250 kilometres offshore, after stepping back from an exclusive earlier focus on floating LNG (FLNG).

The company had planned to develop the prospect with a new FLNG Facility which GDF Suez said would be able to produce between two and three million tonnes of LNG per year, plus condensate, over a lifespan of between 25 and 30 years.

The planned FLNG facility was to be up to 400 metres long and 70 metres wide, with processing, storage and export facilities incorporated in the final design.

GDF Suez started its front end engineering and design phase in 2013, with a final investment decision then-planned for the fourth quarter of 2014.

It had received environmental approval from the Federal Government in 2012 – at the time only the second FLNG project in Australian waters to have won such an approval.

The new decision means that the proposed Bonaparte floating LNG project will not be taken into the front-end-engineering and design (FEED) phase at this point in time.

“While the partners firmly believe the fields have material value, having been fully appraised, their future development using floating LNG technology… does not currently meet companies’ commercial requirements,” GDF Suez wrote.

The French company holds a 60 per cent operating stake in the project, which focuses on developing the Petrel, Tern and Frigate natural gas fields, with the remaining 40% of the project held by Santos.

Santos received a cash consideration of US$200 million when the Bonaparte LNG joint venture was formed, and has received a full carry on study and development costs by GDF Suez.

The Petrel and Tern fields were discovered more than 40 years ago but were considered uneconomic to develop due to their small size and remote location – 170 from the nearest point on the Australian mainland, GDF Suez has previously said.

The partners had previously considered installing an offshore FLNG facility either on its own or with a supporting central processing facility.

It had also looked into piping the gas to the mainland and processing it there, or tying into a third party pipeline, it said.

FLNG was the best of all of these “in relation to the key project drivers, particularly given the ‘stranded’ nature of the remote gas fields proposed for development,” GDF Suez said in its Bonaparte LNG Project Overview in September 2011.

The project was granted Federal Environmental approval in October 2012, with then-environment Minister Tony Burke setting 15 conditions on the project.

These included an Operational Phase Environment plan, which would cover the management of discharges and minimise impacts on the marine environment.

GDF Suez was also requried to implement procedures minimising impacts on whales and dolphins, including applying a 500 metre caution zone between whales and vessels to reduce potential impacts such as vessel strike.