Landmark Papua New Guinea natural gas deal signed

Papua New Guinea has agreed terms for a new multi-billion dollar natural gas project with Total, ExxonMobil and Oil Search that would double energy production and boost exports from the poor Pacific nation.

Announcing the deal on Tuesday, Prime Minister Peter O'Neill vowed the much-needed investment of nearly 13 billion would benefit local communities which have complained bitterly of missing out on earlier projects.

"We will be developing this project for the country," O'Neill said at a ceremony in Port Moresby that capped nearly 12 months of negotiations marked by wrangling over land ownership.

"This is a significant boost to our economy," he said.

One of Asia's most impoverished nations, Papua New Guinea is rich in natural resources including large gas fields.

Total said the proposed project -- which includes gas fields, a pipeline and new liquefaction units at a facility west of Port Moresby -- put Papua New Guinea in a prime location to sell liquefied natural gas (LNG) to the powerhouse economies of Asia.

(with news agency inputs)