MANILA, May 13 (Reuters) - The Philippines' First Gen Corp said construction of its $1 billion LNG terminal should begin by next year to ensure unhampered operation of its power plants when the country's Malampaya natural gas fields run dry in the next decade.
The company intends to keep a 50 percent stake in the project and give partners the other half, including a foreign investor, First Gen President Francis Giles Puno told reporters after a stockholders' meeting on Wednesday.
"The foreign partner will bring in the expertise in operating and maintaining the facility," he said, although a final investment decision has yet to be made.
First Gen's regasification terminal is one of at least four such projects that would open the Southeast Asian country's doors to natural gas imports.
Australian-listed Energy World Corp Ltd is looking to switch on its Quezon LNG import hub and power plant this year, while Manila Electric Co recently said it was in talks with Osaka Gas Co Ltd to build natural gas facilities, including a regasification terminal.
Shell, operator of Malampaya, is also looking to set up a floating regasification facility near its Tabangao refinery in the Philippines.
Construction of First Gen's terminal should begin in the second half of 2016 or early 2017 so that it will be ready by 2020 or 2021, before Malampaya is depleted by 2024, Puno said.
Malampaya fuels First Gen's Santa Rita and San Lorenzo power plants in Batangas province with a combined capacity of 1,500 megawatts, and it will also supply gas to two new facilities nearby.
First Gen expects to switch on its 97 MW Avion plant in the third quarter and its $600 million San Gabriel plant with a 414 MW capacity next year.
The company has shortlisted about six potential contractors for the LNG terminal project and is in talks with several possible partners, but Puno declined to identify any of them.
(Reporting by Erik dela Cruz; Editing by Alan Raybould)
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