Exploiting Papua New Guinea with its people barely acknowledged

This story in the Wall Street Journal is typical of reporting on PNG. “Development” is framed as the saviour of this nation, despite the fact that decades of resource exploitation has left the vast bulk of citizens poor.

I’m currently in the country researching a book on disaster capitalism, filming a documentary and a host of other thangs, so such articles merely bring fatigue. Note the complete lack of local voices. In fact, having travelling around here for 3 weeks, a key component of how Western multinationals view the place is that land-owners are routinely shunned or bought off:

Royal Dutch Shell is getting serious in its pursuit of a piece of Papua New Guinea’s oil and gas wealth.

Around six months after signing a strategic alliance with Papua New Guinea’s state oil company, the Anglo-Dutch oil major is setting up a representative office in the impoverished Southeast Asian nation.

Shell’s strategic alliance with Petromin, signed Aug. 18, includes a joint study of major basins in Papua New Guinea with the potential to contain big oil and gas deposits. The study is due to be completed this year, and could be a springboard for Petromin and Shell to participate in projects together.

“The opening of the office affirms Shell’s interest to invest in Papua New Guinea and offers opportunities for us to work more closely with our partner, Petromin,” Ton Ten Have, Shell’s Vice President Commercial Asia, said in a prepared statement.

According to a BP study, Papua New Guinea had 15.6 trillion cubic feet of proven reserves of natural gas at the end of 2010. That figure likely underestimates the true resource as Papua New Guinea has been lightly explored up to now.

“We welcome the increased presence of Shell and believe it will further facilitate our close cooperation for future opportunities in Papua New Guinea,” said Joshua Kalinoe, Petromin’s managing director. “Together with Petromin, Shell will help Papua New Guinea realise the full potential of its energy resources.”

Shell’s move comes as several companies look to bring in partners on projects in Papua New Guinea.

InterOil said Sept. 30 it had mandated Macquarie Capital, Morgan Stanley and UBS to find a strategic partner for its proposed multibillion dollar Gulf LNG project. Citing a person familiar with the situation, Deal Journal Australia… reported Feb. 7… that Korea Gas is in talks to form a consortium with Mitsui and Japan Petroleum Exploration to join InterOil’s project.

Separately, Canada’s Talisman Energy… last year appointed… Sydney-based advisory RFC Corporate Finance to find an investor for four licenses in the forelands of western Papua New Guinea, which contain a mix of gas discoveries and exploration targets.

ASX-listed Oil Search also opened a data room on its offshore gas fields in the Gulf of Papua in the final quarter of 2011, and has already held preliminary talks with international companies with LNG expertise.

Text and images ©2024 Antony Loewenstein. All rights reserved.

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