Total expects finance commitments for ichthys in 2 months

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French oil group Total expects to get firm commitments for financing the $34 billion Ichthys liquefied natural gas (LNG) project in Australia within about two months, a company executive said on Wednesday. Japan's Inpex Corp, the sponsor of Ichthys, and Total are seeking $20 billion in loans, in what could be the world's biggest project finance loan, for the gas development. Total in July increased its stake in Ichthys located off the northwest coast of Australia to 30 pct from 24 percent, and said the deal would not have any impact on agreements already struck to sell the entire annual output of 8.4 million tonnes from Ichthys for 15 years.

"We are satisfied with that level of equity. Now we are focusing on financing," Philippe Sauquet, the president of Total's gas and power business said, speaking at an LNG producers and consumers conference in Tokyo. Most of the loans for Ichthys are expected to come from export credit agencies, as commercial banks hit by the global economic turmoil are reluctant to make loans.

Ichthys is being lined up to meet higher demand for LNG from Japan, the world's biggest importer, after the Fukushima nuclear crisis closed down most of the country's atomic plants, which accounted for about 30 percent of the country's electricity supply before the disaster.

Sauquet said he expects LNG demand worldwide to increase by about 7 percent each year through 2020 and then 4 percent annually up to 2030. By then, new LNG capacity will need to increase by 340 million tonnes to meet the demand, Sauquet said. Australia is on track to become the world's second-largest exporter of LNG by 2015, with exports capacity rising to 24 million tonnes this year, Australian Minister for Resources and Energy Martin Ferguson said in a speech at the conference in Tokyo.