August 10, 2014 7:58 am

Ex-BG Group chief executive joins InterOil

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Chris Finlayson, the former chief executive of BG Group, has found a new home as chairman of InterOil, the New York-listed oil and gas company developing one of the largest natural gas fields to be discovered in Asia in recent years.

Mr Finlayson, 58, resigned as chief of BG Group in April after only 15 months in the job, amid disagreements with chairman Andrew Gould over the company’s strategy.

Prior to BG he had a 33-year career with Royal Dutch Shell, where he led some of the Anglo-Dutch major’s largest ventures in Russia, Nigeria, Brunei and the North Sea.

Headed by Michael Hession, formerly of Woodside, InterOil is an independent explorer whose main assets are the Elk and Antelope gas fields in Papua New Guinea. Discovered in 2006 and 2009 respectively, they are estimated to contain as much as 7 trillion cubic feet of gas. The company also has exploration licences covering around 16,000 square kilometers in the region.

Mr Finlayson said he was excited by the prospect of working on one of the largest gas finds of recent years. “It’s a world-class field with extremely competitive development costs that is ... very close to the main Asian markets,” he said. He was also attracted by InterOil’s plans for a “very active exploration campaign”, with a number of wells expected to be drilled in the next 12 months.

InterOil has plans to build an onshore liquefied natural gas plant in the Gulf of Papua, which will use gas from Elk and Antelope as a feedstock. It will become the second LNG development in Papua New Guinea – Exxon Mobil’s $19bn LNG project started production there in April this year and delivered its first cargo of liquefied gas the following month.

InterOil’s project gained important backing in March when Total, the French supermajor, farmed into the venture, paying an initial $401m for a 40.1 per cent gross interest with further payments pending appraisal and development of the fields. It is expected that Total will operate the LNG plant.

Mr Finlayson, who himself has a wealth of experience overseeing major LNG projects such as Shell’s massive Sakhalin 2 venture in the far east of Russia, said the Total deal “makes the prospect of development more realistic and gives potential customers the confidence that it will go ahead”.

In June, InterOil sold its downstream business in Papua New Guinea – which includes an oil refinery in Port Moresby as well as petrol service stations and fuel depots – to Puma Energy Group for $526m.

Mr Finlayson, who is also a director of Lloyds Register, said was not looking to take up a senior executive role at an oil company but may acquire other board positions.

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