THE FIRST liquefied natural gas carrier custom-built for the Papua New Guinea LNG project fleet arrived at the project’s marine facilities on 22 February, in preparation for the first LNG cargo from the project.

Built by China’s Hudong-Zhonghua Shipping Group at its Hudong Shipyard, the vessel, known as the Papua, is the largest of its type ever built in China.

The 290 metre vessel, which can carry about 172,000 cubic metres of LNG, will be operated by Mitsui OSK Lines on behalf of ExxonMobil PNG under a long service charter.

ExxonMobil PNG managing director Andrew Barry said the arrival of the vessel was a big step for the project.

“We are already off to an exciting start to 2015 with our first custom-built ship preparing to load its first cargo, which will be shipped to Sinopec,” he said.

“The arrival of this ship supports our objective to safely and reliably deliver LNG to our customers.”

The Papua is owned by Aquarius LNG Shipping Limited, which is a joint venture with Mitsui O.S.K Lines (MOL), China Shipping Group, and Sinopec.

The Papua is the first of the two ships to be built for the PNG LNG project, with the other scheduled for completion in 2016.

Including the Papua, four dedicated carriers will ship LNG for the PNG LNG Project to customers in Asia.

The other two are the Spirit of Hela and Gigira Laitebo.

The project will supply gas to major buyers including Sinopec, Osaka Gas, Tokyo Electric Power Company and CPC Corporation.

The news came after the PNG LNG project successfully achieved financial completion, by satisfying all of the financial completion tests set forth in the Project’s financing arrangements.

Mr Barry said this would mean the project’s completion guarantees will be released, loan repayments will commence, and co-venture distributions will be permitted according to the terms of the financing agreements.

Financing for the project was provided by a consortium of banks and export credit agencies.

A 120-day operational test period on the project, essential for financial completion, wrapped up in January.

The project has a capacity of 6.9 million tonnes per year.