THREE of Australia’s largest pipeline companies and a China-based outlier have made the shortlist for the construction of the Northern Territory’s North East Gas Interconnector.

After assessing nine proposals delivered to it in early March, the Northern Territory Government named a shortlist of four companies on 1 April.

The shortlisted companies are APA Group, Duet Group subsidiary DDG Operations, Jemena subsidiary AGAP (Australia) Assets and Merlin Energy Australia.

While the first three companies are well known to the Australian pipeline industry, the fourth player is a new entity – which The Australian reports is run out of a suburban Sydney home with just $100 worth of equity.

The newspaper reported that Merlin Energy Australia was a Special Purpose Vehicle with the China Petroleum Pipeline Bureau – a subsidiary of the China National Petroleum Corporation.

The company bears no relation to Central Petroleum subsidiary Merlin Energy, Central has confirmed to the Australian Securities Exchange.

Northern Territory chief minister Adam Giles said in an announcement that the quality of the submissions gave the government confidence that the project would be commercially viable.

“The quality of the submissions through the Government’s competitive process for the pipeline’s construction has been so high that we now feel it is inevitable that this vital pipeline will be built,” he said.

The four shortlisted companies have been invited to progress to a Final Request for Proposals stage, which is to close in September – with a successful proponent to be announced shortly thereafter.

Among the aspects to be decided by the successful proponent is the route taken by the pipeline, which is set to connect the gas projects of the Northern Territory to the gas markets of New South Wales.

One option proposed is a pipeline connecting Tennant Creek to existing infrastructure at Mt Isa, a second connecting Alice Springs to the Santos-operated Moomba gas plant in South Australia, while a third is to connect works to APA Group’s Carpentaria gas pipeline.

Mr Giles said he expected the first tranches of gas for the pipeline to come from existing onshore and offshore fields, giving the Northern Territory Government time to develop the Territory’s regulatory environment.

“Through this pipeline, the Government is setting up a long term framework that grows gas supply, creates a more competitive energy market and provides access to plentiful, cheaper gas for use by local industry and domestic energy production,” he said.