FRENCH major Total will be operator of the Elk-Antelope joint venture project with the support of partner companies InterOil and Oil Search.

Total has since presented the partners with a proposed project timeline which targets the selection of a project development concept before the end of the second quarter of 2015.

The partners have narrowed the options down to three primary concepts, InterOil said in its annual report, adding that early works projects would be targeted for 2016 and contract awards and construction in 2017.

The move follows a decision by the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce over a matter brought by Oil Search after InterOil transferred a 40.1 per cent stake in the PRL 15 permit to Total in 2014.

InterOil retained a 36.5% interest in the permit, with minor partners holding the remaining 0.6%.

Oil Search had claimed that its acquisition of Pacific LNG Group of companies in 2014, which gave it a 22.8% share of PRL 15, would also give it pre-emptive rights regarding the sale of any stake in the project.

The Court of Arbitration did not agree with this argument and did not issue the pre-emptive rights to Oil Search.

Yet it also declared that Total had no rights in PRL 15 or in the Elk/Antelope joint operating agreement (JOA), unless and until InterOil and Total complied with relevant transfer clauses within the JOA, Oil Search said in a statement.

The decision was handed down by the panel on 10 February, 2015, with InterOil saying that these criteria had been filled from 27 February.

Following this, the parties to the PRL 15 joint venture announced they had unanimously voted to appoint Total E&P PNG as operator of the venture.

The appointment will take effect in accordance with an operator transition plan and the terms of the joint venture operating agreement and is subject to all necessary PNG Government approvals.

Oil Search managing director Peter Botten said in an announcement that the company was pleased that the 40.1% interest had now been successfully transferred to Total.

“The election of Total, a world leader in the global LNG industry, as operator of PRL 15 will help facilitate the completion of appraisal and the timely development of the world class Elk/Antelope fields,” he said.

The exact amount Total paid for the PRL 15 stake was not disclosed, but in its annual results Total said it had made US$2.54 billion in acquisitions in 2014, “comprised principally of the acquisition of an interest in the Elk and Antelope discoveries in Papua New Guinea, the acquisition of an additional interest in Novatek and the carry on the Utica gas and condensate field in the United States.”

InterOil is entitled to additional resource certification payments and milestone payments from Total as the project evolves, it said.