TotalEnergies says Mozambique LNG restart complicated by cost disagreements

(Reuters) - The restart of TotalEnergies' $20-B Mozambique LNG project is being complicated by disagreements with contractors over extra costs, the company said on Thursday.

The French energy company holds a leading 26.5% stake in the development, which was halted in 2021 after Islamic State-linked insurgents attacked civilians in Mozambique's northern Cabo Delgado province where the LNG project is located.

TotalEnergies CEO Patrick Pouyanne told investors on Thursday that cost considerations were now the last step before restarting Mozambique LNG as the security situation has stabilized.

"We need the contractors to be reasonable, some of them are not ... and have tried to benefit from the situation," Pouyanne said. "There is no way for us to accept some undue costs - we have paid what we have had to pay because we stopped the project and have to restart, we don't see why we should pay more than that. So that's where we are."

This week Mozambique President Filipe Nyusi said the Cabo Delgado province was safe enough for the project to restart, while energy services group Saipem said it was notified by Total to prepare for a restart in July.

The French company has previously said it would wait for a commissioned report on the humanitarian situation on the ground before coming to a final decision with project partners.

A TotalEnergies spokesperson on Wednesday said that report — initially expected by the end of February — was still a work in progress and declined to give a date for its completion.

The project was initially slated to deliver its first LNG cargo in 2024, with plans to produce up to 43 million tons of gas annually.

Pouyanne said on Thursday he was not worried by the project's delay, and that so far no buyers who have pre-signed to take the gas have exercised their right to withdraw.

"If some buyers prefer to withdraw we are ready to take more, so we are open to that, but some Japanese buyers are also ready to take more ... there is some appetite in the market, the project is well located directly on the Indian Ocean," Pouyanne said.

Total's project is among energy developments worth a combined $60 billion that would revolutionize Mozambique's $15 billion economy

Mozambique LNG's other shareholders are Mozambique's ENH, Japan's Mitsui & Co., Thailand's PTTEP and Indian firms ONGC Videsh, Bharat Petroleum and Oil India Ltd.

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