CHIBA, Japan, April 4 (Reuters) - Inpex Corp's $37 billion Ichthys Australian liquefied natural gas (LNG) project will start shipping ultra-light crude known as condensate by end-2017 and LNG shipments next year, one of the partners in the development told Reuters on Tuesday.
The comments from Total Chairman and CEO Patrick Pouyanne suggest further slippage in a project that has in recent months been hit by subcontractor disputes.
The shipment schedule, however, did not represent more delays in a project that was originally scheduled to start operating by the end of last year, Pouyanne said.
"We always said by year-end. You have two things. You have the gas production upstream and then it takes time. We have to fill the pipeline and then start the train," he said, referring to LNG production units, known as trains in industry parlance.
Condensate shipments will start by the end of this year, while "LNG (cargoes) will be more in the beginning of 2018."
This would appear to be a delay from a statement on Inpex's website that says production is now expected to start in the third quarter of 2017. An Inpex spokesman contacted by Reuters said the published schedule is unchanged.
Pouyanne said the subcontractor disputes were not holding up the start-up and that such issues are common to large projects.
The central processing facility will set sail from a South Korean shipyard "soon", he said.
Most of the LNG plants being built in Australia, including Chevron's huge Gorgon facility and Royal Dutch Shell's floating Prelude production vessel, are having trouble keeping within budget and on schedule. More delays are expected.
Once completed, Ichthys is set to produce 8.9 million tonnes of LNG per year and about 100,000 barrels per day of condensate at its peak.
Inpex holds 62.245 percent of Ichthys and Total 30 percent. The rest is spread amongst Taiwan's CPC Corp and Japanese utilities Tokyo Gas, Osaka Gas, Kansai Electric, JERA Corp and Toho Gas. (Reporting by Aaron Sheldrick; Additional reporting by Osamu Tsukimori; Editing by Tom Hogue)