SANTOS has posted a net profit of $516 million, down slightly on the previous year’s $518 million, as the company prepares for the completion of the Gladstone LNG and Papua New Guinea LNG projects.

Overall production of 51 million barrels of oil equivalent (mmboe) in 2013 was 2% lower than 2012, with sales volumes also 5% lower at 58.5 mmboe.

New production from the start-up of the Fletcher Finucane oil project offshore Western Australia and higher production from Darwin LNG had been offset by natural declines at other fields and the end of production at Santos’ Sangu asset in Bangladesh.

The profit was recorded on the back of a 12 per cent rise in sales revenue to a record $3.6 billion, driven by higher oil and gas prices as well as the company’s highest oil production levels in six years.

Excluding net impairments and other one-off items, underlying net profit was $504 million, down 17 per cent on 2012’s $606 million.

The company expects its cash flow to more than double over the next two years as the projects come online – with first LNG delivery from PNG LNG now expected in the third quarter of this year, according to Santos managing director David Knox.

“We are well down the home stretch on that one,” he said.

The focus at the project, which is operated by ExxonMobil, is currently shifting to the commissioning of key facilities and equipment, with four of eight production wells drilled and commissioning of the upstream gas conditioning plant underway.

“Construction of the onshore pipeline is well progressed and the offshore pipeline is complete,” a Santos announcement said.

“Commissioning is ramping up at the LNG plant with gas circulating in train 1 and the refrigeration compressors being test run.”

Mr Knox added that the GLNG project was making good progress, being now about 75% complete, with over 230 wells drilled during 2013.

“The project recently celebrated a major milestone with the completion of tunnelling of the marine crossing,” he said.

Construction of three upstream gas hubs was progressing, with the company recently commissioning the first of the new development wells at the Queensland towns of Fairview and Roma.

Mr Knox also told journalists during a conference call that the company believed the Great Australian Bight had potential, but added Santos was unlikely to drill there before 2016.