Australia’s third liquefied natural gas (LNG) liquefaction and export facility — Pluto LNG in Western Australia — is ready for start up, operator Woodside said Thursday. First gas has entered the facility’s processing train.

First production of LNG is to take place in the coming weeks, followed by deliveries to foundation customers and project participants Kansai Electric and Tokyo Gas, said Woodside, which now operates two of the country’s three LNG export facilities.

Pluto LNG is expected to contribute 17-21 million boe to Woodside’s 2012 production, in line with previous guidance. In steady-state, the long-term average Pluto production is expected to contribute 37 million boe to the company’s annual volumes.

The Greater Pluto fields are estimated to contain 5.5 Tcf of proved and possible dry gas reserves and an additional 680 Bcf of contingent resources.

At the recent IHS CERAWeek 2012 in Houston, David Knox, CEO of exploration and production company Santos, said by 2018 eight LNG liquefaction projects under construction in Australia are expected to be online, making the country the world’s largest exporter of LNG (see Daily GPI, March 8). “On just about every measure, the driver for future LNG demand comes from Asia,” Knox said. “From now until 2025 demand is set to double to around 300 million [metric] tons.”

When Woodside said in 2005 that it would construct Pluto LNG, the estimated gas resource in the Pluto field was 3.5 Tcf (see Daily GPI, Aug. 10, 2005). Back then the company said it expected the project to be online in 2010, sending LNG to the United States as well as Asian markets.

The initial phase of Pluto LNG comprises an offshore platform connected to five subsea wells on the Pluto gas field. Gas would be piped through a trunkline to the onshore facility, located between the North West Shelf Project and Dampier Port on the Burrup Peninsula. Onshore infrastructure comprises a single LNG processing train with a forecast production capacity of 4.3 million metric tons per year.

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