InterOil Corp., Total SA’s partner in Papua New Guinea, named former BG Group Plc Chief Executive Officer Chris Finlayson as chairman to help the company develop a natural gas export project in the Pacific nation.
Finlayson, 58, has led exploration and production ventures in Russia, Nigeria, Europe and Asia with BG and Royal Dutch Shell Plc, Singapore-based InterOil said in a statement yesterday. He will replace Gaylen Byker, a director at the company since 1997, according to the statement.
Finlayson joins InterOil as the energy company and Paris-based Total proceed with plans to use supplies from the Elk and Antelope fields to build Papua New Guinea’s second liquefied natural gas development. The proposed project will target customers in China and Japan as the U.S. adds to supply competition in the global LNG market, Finlayson said.
“Whilst I do see the U.S. as a major exporter, it’s not going to be the dominant exporter,” Finlayson said in a phone interview yesterday. “Elk-Antelope sits in a very attractive position” from a cost perspective, and Asian buyers will want to diversify their sources of supply, he said.
A Total and InterOil development in Papua New Guinea would follow Exxon Mobil Corp.’s $19 billion LNG project, which started shipments to Asia earlier this year. Oil Search Ltd., Exxon’s partner, acquired part of Elk-Antelope this year.
Finlayson said InterOil would be interested in working with competitors in Papua New Guinea to curb costs.
“We’ll be open to cooperation,” he said.
In the past, InterOil’s management was viewed as a weakness, according to David Neuhauser, managing director of Livermore Partners Inc., an investment firm in Northbrook, Illinois that owns shares in the natural gas explorer.
“This will help with credibility,” Neuhauser said today in an e-mailed response to questions.
The executive, whose previous roles in the oil and gas industry included managing Shell’s interest in the Sakhalin-2 venture in Russia, said he brings “big-project experience” to InterOil after the company revamped its management team.
Michael Hession, a former executive at Woodside Petroleum Ltd. and BP Plc, was named chief executive officer of InterOil last year. In January, the company named Jon Ozturgut chief operating officer and Donald Spector chief financial officer.
Woodside may take a look at purchasing InterOil as Australia’s second-largest oil and gas producer faces growing pressure to make an acquisition to boost reserves, according to a report in January from Macquarie Group Ltd.
Finlayson left BG, the U.K.’s third-largest gas producer, in April in “a dispute over the speed” of the company’s creation of value for shareholders, Executive Chairman Andrew Gould said in May. BG has since accelerated asset sales.