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Power Plant Site Cleared in Markham Valley
by PNG Business News - March 19, 2021
PNG Biomass is Oil Search’s renewable energy and sustainable tree farming business. The project is still subject to a final investment decision by Oil Search, now planned to take place in the second half of the year.
The formal ‘go-ahead' has been postponed several times due to a lengthy process with the PNG government to fulfil their promises to move the project forward. Oil Search will shift the project rapidly into construction once the PNG government addresses the final outstanding issues, adding 30 megawatts of renewable, affordable, and clean energy to the Ramu grid and Lae businesses.
Michael Henson, Project Director of PNG Biomass, said, “We designed PNG Biomass with a two-fold purpose; we will power the Ramu Grid with low-emission renewable energy, and to do that we use an inclusive economic growth model to empower communities to maximise benefits for them. The value we create with PNG Biomass is shared between landowners, communities, women, youth, future generations, local and regional businesses, provincial and national government, and Oil Search. This is a great example of creating shared value. This project is equally a sustainable investment for Oil Search in the energy transition and investment in the people and prosperity of PNG.”
Henson said that it is now time to realise the benefits of this project. “Over the last year, we have expanded our tree farm to 3,000 hectares. We signed the long-term lease with the landowners of the power plant land and just finished clearing the power plant site, we are ready to commence construction. In the next few months, boreholes will be drilled to supply water to the power plant. We just need the Government to deliver on its commitments to move this project forward,” stated Henson.
He added, “Landowners of the Ganef community were glad to see us clear the site, but they are getting restless. They have committed their land to build the power plant, but construction has not commenced yet. We reach out to them daily to provide information and explain the delays, but it is difficult to explain the bureaucracy and politics in PNG. Fortunately, we have a great working relationship with our communities. The Ganef landowners are thankful for the borehole we drilled in their community. We also installed a solar pump and water tank so they now have a fresh water supply.”
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PNG Business News - April 08, 2021
Price of Oil Recovers in Spite of COVID
According to Oil Search, oil prices have risen steadily in recent months from the initial effect of the Covid-19 last year, when prices ranged about US$43 (K150) per barrel of oil (bbl), to levels above US$60/bbl (K210) since February this year. In response to questions, a group spokesperson said,“ To date, there has been no impact to production in our Oil Search operations in PNG as a result of the recent surge in the Covid-19 cases. The increase in confirmed Covid-19 cases in PNG has prompted Oil Search to enact its crisis and emergency management plans. The health and safety of our employees remain the company’s highest priority and teams have been assembled in PNG and Sydney to deploy additional support to protect our people and to ensure the safety and reliability of our operations. At our PNG field locations, we continue to operate under precautionary protocols established in 2020, which includes redeployment of non-essential personnel, restriction of access and travel to field locations and implementation of strict preventative measures and quarantine zones.” He added, “We have enacted additional risk mitigation measures include establishing ‘cocoons’ for our field teams and extending the quarantine period for employees and contractors. To date, there has not been a single positive case recorded in our operating sites outside of quarantine. We have also conducted more than 7,500 Covid-19 tests at our medical clinics and quarantine facilities in PNG. Beyond the safety of our own people and assets, Oil Search stands ready to work with relevant Government and health authorities to assist in PNG’s overall response to the Covid-19. This includes the dissemination of accurate information around the Covid-19 and vaccinations, supporting provincial health authorities to implement an effective vaccination programme, and providing logistics and cold chain support where required and as directed by the Government.”
PNG Business News - April 08, 2021
Lae Chamber Welcomes Green Energy
The Lae Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) said it welcomes any power plan that is long-term, environmentally friendly and creates jobs in the delivery of efficient, low-cost electricity in Lae and Morobe. President John Byrne referred to concerns regarding the PNG Biomass project in the province's Markham Valley when he said, “PNG Biomass has provided a solution which ticks most of these boxes, whether it fits the plan of PPL (PNG Power Ltd) is a decision beyond our scope. The recent Ramu 2 announcement is another such solution. Our people of Lae, Morobe, and PNG, not only expect but deserve, reliable, constant and cost-effective power solutions.” According to Byrne, the Lae business group praised the Lae PPL team for their commitment, hard work, and communication in maintaining an ageing and insecure grid infrastructure operational. He said many companies that had short or long-term contracts with the government were failing because of the long-standing outstanding Government bills owing to them. “The quantum of debt is not specified but very large and this added to the impact of the Covid-19, resource debates and a lack of forex is taking a toll on the business houses.,” he said.
PNG Business News - April 08, 2021
Businesses Concerned Regarding Government Debts
With the outstanding amount of government debt owed to the sector, pending landowner fees, and rising law and order woes, businesses are concerned about 2022. According to Chey Scovell, chief executive officer of the PNG Manufacturers Board, conversations within the business community revealed that the government owed companies more than K2 billion. “I don’t have an updated list, but from general conversations with business and what is being raised with the various chambers, it would exceed K2 billion,” he said. “We hear that contractors for the Department of Works have claims for this amount alone, so the number could be as high as K3 billion. No doubt they may have paid some, technically a K1 payment would be paying at least some. The Budget hasn’t been able to be implemented properly at all. Recurrent expenditure, monthly bills for things like water, power, security, rent, are not being paid in full or in many cases at all. We’ve suggested that the Government put up an online portal/list, for all creditors to register for the Government to show full or progressive payments.” Scovell compared what the government was doing to the private community to what would happen if everybody started paying taxes for one to five years but continued to use government programs. “They wouldn’t be able to survive, so how is it that they expect businesses to carry on?” he said. “It is also a bit of a cop-out that Treasury is taking a long time and in many instances taking extensive reviews of claims to see if they will pay them and by how much.” Scovell argued that the government was required to behave in good faith and to set a precedent, but that forcing or intimidating companies to make substantial reductions in compensation due for goods and services rendered was bad form. “We note there are many dodgy claims, but there seems to be little evidence that hires car firms, public works contractors and catering firms (reported as problematic areas) are having the same scrutiny,” he said. “BOC Gas waited years to be paid for medical gases such as oxygen supplied to PMGH (Port Moresby General Hospital), it was reviewed twice that I know of and not paid. The other item of note is that debt carried is a growing debt. The older it gets the more it has cost the businesses.” He added, “Also, our currency has been depreciating, many businesses based their fees on the foreign exchange rates at that time, some even had loans Just like our tax penalties, the longer they are overdue, the higher they should become. This Government isn’t doing to others as it does for itself. We still have micro, small and medium enterprises that have suffered duress due to non-payment of bills going all the way back to our 40th Independence, same goes for the 2015 Pacific Games, we hear from the regional chambers that there are many outstanding claims for the past two elections. Again, if we had a publicly available list, the Government wouldn’t be able to hide behind confusion and people could whistleblow on dubious claims.”