AFTER months of an on again off again takeover deal, major PNG gas reserves holder InterOil Corporation has reported that its acquisition by ExxonMobil has been completed.

The takeover had been held up by dissident shareholder and former CEO Phil Mulacek who had successfully had the deal blocked in a Yukon Court.

But after more strong shareholder support and a successful court appeal InterOil has finally been able to announce the completion of the transaction with Exxon Mobil.

The settling of the takeover has been welcomed in PNG where the participants in the Total-led Papua LNG Project (of which Exxon is now a member) and the Exxon-led PNG LNG Project can now sit down to discuss potential collaboration.

Leading PNG company Oil Search Ltd (a member of both groups) believes that there is the potential for gas from Papua LNG’s giant Elk/Antelope fields to be integrated into a proposed expansion of the PNG LNG project.

This would potentially save the participants billions and speed up the proposed PNG LNG expansion.

In its last driling update prior to becoming part of the giant ExxonMobil business, InterOil reported that the Antelope-7 sidetrack appraisal well is now chasing a deeper target after it had been drilled to 2,383m measured depth below rotary table (MDRT) without any evidence of intersecting the Antelope reservoir.

InterOil said the proposed total depth of the Antelope-7 appraisal section of the well was around 2,300m and the well operator, Total, on gehalf of the PRL15 joint venture is drilling ahead to explore a deeper exploration target.

InterOil, now Exxon, holds a 36.5375% interest in the well. Total E&P PNG Limited has a 40.1275% interest, Oil Search has 22.8350%, and the remaining 0.5000% is held by minority parties.

The completion of the InterOil deal wasn’t the only positive news for the PNG petroleum sector.

There is a strong feeling that the recent Muruk-1 gas discovery could be a real “game changer”. Some analysts are already suggesting it is a new multi-tcf gas resource for PNG – and with its location near to Hides and the associated PNG LNG facilities, it has the potential to really boost the proposed expansion of the PNG LNG project.

That major news was also boosted when a recent independent survey provided a critical upgrade to the known reserves already associated with the PNG LNG Project.

And last, but not least, Kumul Petroleum and others are gaining in confidence that they may be on the right track to commercialise the valuable, but stranded gas assets in the Western Province.

With these, and a number of other positive developments underway it is not surprising that crowds are attending in big numbers at recent PNG conferences.