April 13 (UPI) -- Nearly two months after a major earthquake struck the island nation, Exxon Mobil said it was able to resume liquefied natural gas production ahead of schedule.
Exxon said Friday that one train -- the part of the plant that turns gas to liquid -- is back in service. The second train will restart once the plant's production increases.
"Resuming LNG production ahead of our projected eight-week timeframe is a significant achievement for Exxon Mobil, our joint-venture partners and our customers," Neil W. Duffin, president of Exxon' s production company, said in a statement.
More than a dozen people were left dead after the island was hit with a 7.5-magnitude earthquake Feb. 26. Dozens of aftershocks were recorded in the following days, some of which were near the 6-magnitude range. Exxon shut down much of its infrastructure and evacuated non-essential personal from the areas impacted by the quakes.
The plant can produce nearly 8 million tons of LNG, positioning Papua New Guinea as an emerging supplier for the Asia-Pacific market. Many of the island nations in the region lack adequate domestic reserves, so LNG can fill in the gap.
Exxon's LNG facility on the southern coast of Papua New Guinea has two processing trains, two LNG storing tanks and a marine loading terminal. The company on Thursday revised the reserve estimate of its P'nyang field in the country 84 percent, noting that could add another 8 million tons of LNG capacity per year.
In its latest assessment, the International Monetary Fund said the nation's economy had "slowed sharply." The World Food Program estimates more than 270,000 people still need humanitarian assistance following the quake.
"While a lot of work remains to be done, we are confident that with the support of all our partners and stakeholders, we can help our friends and neighbors recover from this tragic natural disaster," Exxon's regional managing director Andrew Barry said.