Australian IPEX/Total Conglomerate Groundbreaking

Category: Global Markets / May 25, 2012 3:14PM EDT

Australian Prime Minster, Julia Gillard, on Friday, May 18, officially got construction underway at the IPEX liquefied natural gas plant, in the northern city of Darwin

Known as the Ichthys Project and budgeted for 34 billion U.S. dollars, the partnership is between Japanese oil and gas explorer and producer, IPEX and French energy group, Total

The conglomerate intends to pump gas 900 kilometers (560 miles) from the Browse Basin of the western Australian coast to the plant in Darwin for processing,

The ceremony was witnessed by about 40 dignitaries as the first soil was turned. Most of the gas to be produced at the plant has already been pre-sold, with the majority to go to Japan, local media said.

Gillard highlighted the positive effect of the project on the Australian economy and relationships between Australia, Japan and France.  

The Japanese Vice-Minister of Trade and Economy, Mitsuyoshi Yanagisawa, cited the catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan last year and its detrimental affect on nuclear power production in the country, as underlying the importance of the Ichthys Project.

Local media reports that the construction phase of the project is expected to take around five years