BHP Announces First Gas from Minerva in Australia

BHP Billiton announced first production from the Minerva gas field development in the offshore Otway Basin, Victoria, Australia.

The new gas plant will produce up to a maximum gross design production rate of 150 terajoules of sales gas per day (TJ/d), (BHP Billiton share 135 TJ/d). Up to 500 barrels per day (gross) of stabilised condensate will also be produced. Initial gas flowrates are expected to increase to full contractual volumes by early next week following the full commissioning of the plant.

The gas is being sold largely under contract into the Pelican Point Power Station in South Australia via a new pipeline owned and operated by the SEAGAS company. The development furthers the delivery of BHP Billiton's Eastern Australia Gas Strategy with Victorian gas being supplied by BHP Billiton to Victoria, Tasmania, New South Wales and now South Australia.

"BHP Billiton is a supplier of Victorian gas to four eastern Australian states and is expected to have the highest production market share in 2005," said Philip Aiken, BHP Billiton Group President Energy.

The Minerva development consists of two subsea well completions in 60 meters of water, approximately 10 kilometers offshore from the township of Port Campbell. A single flowline transports gas to the coast, through a subterranean shore crossing and to an onshore gas processing facility where liquids are removed prior to exporting the gas to South Australia.

In executing its Eastern Australia Gas Strategy, BHP Billiton has, through a number of commercial gas sales agreements, facilitated the construction of three new gas transmission pipelines. These pipelines are catalysing the overall growth of the domestic gas market. The development of Minerva gas resources is also bringing an additional source of supply into the market that, together with the growth of pipeline infrastructure, will enhance overall security of supply in the gas system.

BHP Billiton holds a 90 percent interest in the Minerva field and is the operator. The remaining 10 percent interest is held by Santos (BOL) Pty Ltd.

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