THE FIRST cargo of liquefied natural gas bound for Japan has left Papua New Guinea in the first gas export from the PNG LNG project – a move which represents a step change for exports in the region.

The Spirit of Hela, pictured, left carrying a cargo bound for Tokyo Electric Power (TEPCO), though China Petroleum and Chemical Corporation, Osaka Gas and CPC Corporation are also set to buy some of the 6.9 million tonnes of LNG the project is set to produce every year.

ExxonMobil PNG managing director Peter Graham said that this was an historic moment for PNG.

“This is the country’s largest resource project and it has taken the effort of many thousands of people to bring it to fruition,” he said.

“With the support of government, our co-venturers and the local community, we are proud to celebrate the safe completion and first cargo from the PNG LNG Project.”

Mr Graham said the Project startup positions Papua New Guinea as a resource-rich nation uniquely placed to deliver natural gas to meet the growing demand of Asia markets over the long term.

“The PNG LNG Project demonstrates to the world what Papua New Guinea is capable of delivering.”

Production from the first train started in April, and production from the second train has also started as additional wells came online.

Project partner Santos’ managing director David Knox said the successful completion and first cargo from PNG LNG had also market the beginning of “transformational growth” for his company.

“Santos is well and truly a key player in the LNG market and today’s announcement only strengthens our position as a major and competitive LNG supplier to Asia,” Mr Knox said.

“This is an important step for Santos and we look forward to the continued ramp up of LNG production. PNG LNG will quadruple Santos’ LNG production once the project reaches full output.”

Papua New Guinea Prime Minister Peter O’Neill said the project had brought significant economic benefits to the nation.

“Not only will the people of Papua New Guinea now benefit; their children and grandchildren will continue to enjoy the benefits and positive effects from this valuable resource development for many years to come,” said Mr O’Neill.