Australia OKs major natural gas project

Australia gave the green light today to Chevron Corp.'s plans for a major natural gas production and liquefication project off the country's northwest coast.

The development of the Greater Gorgon fields is expected to provide huge quantities of liquefied gas for export to China and other Asian nations.

Australia's environmental minister, Peter Garrett, told reporters in Canberra that the project received environmental approval subject to 28 new conditions, Bloomberg News reported.

The ruling was among the final obstacles preventing Chevron, Royal Dutch Shell and Exxon Mobil Corp. from making a decision to build the venture.

Gorgon is one of more than a dozen liquefied natural gas projects proposed for Australia and Papua New Guinea that would compete for Asian buyers. Chevron would be the operator of the project. The San Ramon, Calif., company has a 50% interest; Royal Dutch and ExxonMobil own 25% each.

Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has estimated that the value of gas sales from the Gorgon fields could total $249 billion over 20 years. Gorgon would be Australia's largest single natural resources project, according to Chevron.

Exxon this month signed deals to sell much of its share of Gorgon production to Asian importers including PetroChina Co. and India's Petronet LNG Ltd.

Chevron's shares have rallied from a 2009 low of $56.46 on March 5. The stock slipped 11 cents to $70.65 on Tuesday.


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