Papua New Guinea's Kutubu crude gets lighter as share of PNG LNG condensate rises

Singapore (Platts)--2 Feb 2018 906 am EST/1406 GMT

Papua New Guinea's Kutubu blend crude has grown lighter, the latest assay from an equity holder showed Friday, in a continuing evolution of the grade's quality as dwindling production from the main Kutubu field is replaced by condensate from the PNG LNG project.

An assay by Kutubu equity holder ExxonMobil showed that the Kutubu Blend now has a gravity of 51.2 API and a sulfur content of 0.021%.

The assay was not dated. Sources said, however, that Kutubu blend cargoes had been showing a gravity of around 51-52 API for the last one year.

An earlier assay by Kutubu operator Oil Search issued in June 2014 and seen by S&P Global Platts showed that the Kutubu Blend then had a gravity of 49.1 API and a sulfur content of 0.026%.

A 2010 assay by Oil Search showed a gravity of 44.8 API and a sulfur content of 0.044%.

The changes in Kutubu Blend's quality comes amid falling production at some of the heavier crude fields that make up the Kutubu Blend. At the same time, the share of condensate from the PNG LNG project mixed into the Kutubu Blend has increased.

Production from the Kutubu field in the last quarter of 2017 was 649,000 barrels, down 17% year on year.

Condensate production from the PNG LNG project also declined over the same period, falling 8.2% year on year to 759,000 barrels in Q4 2017. Production was lower due to LNG plant compressor upgrades in October, Oil Search said.

"As the [Kutubu] oil field production declines, you will see the condensate component gradually increasing. Additional production will come from other wells," a source said.

The Kutubu Blend comprises crude oil from the Kutubu, Moran and Gobe fields in the Southern Highlands of Papua New Guinea. Condensate from the PNG LNG project was added to the Kutubu Blend in 2014.

Kutubu Blend currently has a combined production of around 55,000 b/d, according to Oil Search. Two-three cargoes of 650,000 barrels each are typically available for export every month.

ExxonMobil's assay also showed that the yield of heavy naphtha was at 38.6%, up from 28.8% in the June 2014 assay by Oil Search.

The yield of kerosene, meanwhile, fell to 17.7% in the latest assay, from 22.3% in the 2014 assay.

Gasoil yield was at 12.3% and residue yield at 10.9% in the latest assay, down from 20.7% and 11.3% respectively in the 2014 assay.

Kutubu Blend loads from the Kumul Marine Terminal, located offshore in the Gulf of Papua.

Oil Search holds a 60% interest in the Kutubu complex. Other equity holders are ExxonMobil with a 14.5% interest, JX Nippon's Merlin Petroleum Company with an 18.7% stake, and landowner interests with 6.8%.

--Andrew Toh,

--Edited by E Shailaja Nair,

Copyright © 2018 S&P Global Platts, a division of S&P Global. All rights reserved.