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Chevron's Gorgon Project to Restart Production within 30-60 days

Chevron Corporation CVX, one of the largest integrated energy companies in the world, announced that its $54 billion Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) development in offshore Australia, which has been shut down after the temporary halt in output due to mechanical problems, will restart operations within a month or two.

The massive Gorgon project was initially estimated at $37 billion and was scheduled to begin LNG production and export in 2014. However, the production finally commenced on Mar 7, 2016 due to delays and increased expenses. Soon after, Chevron shipped the project’s first LNG cargo to Japanese utility firm – Chubu Electric.

However, less than a month after initiating production, the project encountered mechanical issues at a cooling plant. The refrigeration unit was unable to turn natural gas into a superchilled liquid to be shipped on tankers.

Although unfavorable for Chevron, the production halt is expected to boost Asian LNG prices. The commodity price has plunged roughly 80% from the peak reached in 2014 owing to an oversupplied market amid low demand.

The Gorgon project operates via three production lines and is estimated to produce 15.6 million metric tons of LNG per year once all the three lines become functional. Moreover, the development is expected to generate sufficient natural gas to provide electricity to 2.5 million homes in Australia. The first production train is expected to reach its full capacity in approximately six to eight months. Construction work on LNG trains 2 and 3 is in progress.

Located on Barrow Island off the northwest coast of Western Australia, this project is a joint venture. While Chevron is the operator of the development with 47.3% stake, Exxon Mobil Corporation XOM and Royal Dutch Shell plc RDS.A have 25% stake each in the development. The remaining equity interest is held by Osaka Gas, Tokyo Gas and Chubu Electric Power.

San Ramon, CA-based Chevron currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold), implying that it will perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.

A better-ranked stock in the energy sector is Vanguard Natural Resources, LLC VNR, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy).

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