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Papua New Guinea (the Independent State of Papua New Guinea) is on the east of the island of New Guinea. It borders Indonesia (west), the Pacific Ocean (north and east) and is close to Australia (south) across the Coral Sea.

People lived in the highlands of New Guinea before 7000 BC. In 500 BC Austronesians settled coastal regions but, apart from trade with nearby islands, there was little outside contact. Portuguese traders, who first visited in 1545, introduced the sweet potato leading to a rise in the population but cannibalism was still common, even occurring in isolated areas up to the 1950s.

In 1884 the north was colonised as German New Guinea and the south, as British New Guinea. The latter was transferred to Australia and renamed  Papua in 1905. In 1920 German New Guinea was mandated to Australia while Papua remained a separate administration.

They were combined after Japan, in occupation from 1942, had been expelled. Independence from Australia was achieved in 1975 but close ties remain. Revolts on Bougainville Island were not fully resolved until 1997 and the island is now a province with a referendum on independence planned.

The country has a developing economy and a growing resource sector although many people still live by subsistence farming.

Papua New Guinea lies at the collision point of several tectonic plates and there are a number of active volcanoes, with frequent earthquakes. The country includes the eastern half of New Guinea island and several large Melanesian islands including New Ireland, New Britain, Manus and Bougainville.

The mainland is dominated by the New Guinea Highlands running from Indonesian Papua down to the southwest in the region known as the Bird's Tail.  The highest peak is Mount Wilhelm at 4,509m. The mountains are covered with tropical rainforests whilst dense rainforests are also found in lowland and coastal areas. A large wetland area surrounds the Sepik and Fly rivers in the south. The country is surrounded by coral reefs.

Oil began to be produced in 1991 after heli-borne rigs had been used to explore in the remote jungle ridges of the Papuan Fold Belt. Fields clustered in the Kutubu complex have produced the greatest amount of oil, reaching a peak soon after development, with output now supported by others along the same trend. The largest of these is the Moran field.

Associated gas for local use came onstream in 1991 although most gas had to be flared. Gas production began to grow significantly in 2014 when an LNG plant was commissioned, tapping free gas fields in the Fold Belt. Another LNG plant, making use of gas from the Elk and Antelope fields, is due to come onstream in 2025.

Globalshift forecasts that, in the longer term, onshore processing plants will be tied into offshore gas discoveries in the Gulf of Papua.


Map and National Flag


DC3 before take-off

Southeast Asia

Papua New Guinea

E and P


Oil and gas summary



Land area (sq kms)

Oil prod (000s b/d)

Gas prod (bcm/yr)

Oil cons (000s b/d)

Gas cons (bcm/yr)


Port Moresby

6.8 mm






Brief history of the country

Papua New Guinea is a Commonwealth realm. The head of state is thus the UK monarch represented by a Governor-General who is elected by the legislature. Executive power lies with a Prime Minister, who heads a cabinet of 31 MPs.

The unicameral National Parliament has 111 seats, of which 22 are occupied by the governors of the provinces and the remainder are popularly elected for 5-year terms.

The oil and gas industry is overseen by the Ministry of Petroleum & Energy. Oil Search, founded in 1929, is the largest oil company in the country. Kumul Petroleum Holdings Limited (KPHL) is the NOC replacing NPCP Holdings in 2015 which was incorporated in 2009 and holds 16.57% equity in the PNG LNG Project .

Papua New Guinea was given Observer status in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1976.

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