SYDNEY, July 18 (Xinhua) -- Papua New Guinea centric Oil Search Ltd has been pipped by a "superior proposal" for InterOil by U.S. giant ExxonMobil, heating up the Pacific's oil and gas space.

Oil Search had become "king maker" in the Papua New Guinea Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) space after obtaining the backing of French major Total SA for U.S. based InterOil and it's lucrative PNG asset of the Elk Antelope field.

Total had been looking to exploit the field in a bid to rival Exxon's PNG LNG project which came online last year, though with Oil Search on board, it was believed the two projects could have been amalgamated.

But Oil Search announced on Monday InterOil had deemed Exxon's 45 U.S. dollar per InterOil share - paid in Exxon shares - and a contingent resource payment was the "superior proposal" to Oil Search's 2.2 billion U.S. dollar bid. The company was notified of an unsolicited bid earlier in July, widely believed to have been from Exxon.

"The proposal from ExxonMobil endorses Oil Search's view on the quality of the Elk-Antelope gas fields and the value of the Papua LNG Project," Oil Search managing director Peter Botten said in a statement on Monday.

Oil Search has until July 21 to submit a revised offer for InterOil and is in active dialogue with Total.

Should the revised offer not be given, or accepted, Oil Search is entitled to a 60 million U.S. dollar agreement break fee, 20 percent of which flows to Total, which "more than covers the costs associated with its offer," Botten said.

"Oil Search's board and management are committed to acting in the best interests of shareholders at all times and are presently considering their position," Botten said.

The deal originally concerned PNG's consumer and competition watchdog who flagged they may block the takeover on anti-competition grounds after learning about it during media reports.

It's believed the new bid may also draw the ire with PNG's Independent Consumer and Competition Commission (ICCC).

Oil Search had been looking to amalgamate the two projects to prevent the wastage of money the way Australia's east coast producers have already done, potentially cutting combined costs by at least 10 percent. Local analysts believe that dream could still be fulfilled.

"Given its existing material interests in both the PNG LNG Project and in the Papua LNG Project, Oil Search is well placed to participate in the potentially very significant benefits that are expected to arise from cooperation between, andor integration of, the projects," Botten said.

The two projects are ranking the world's top three undeveloped conventional LNG projects, with the added benefit of being closer to Asia, the world's largest LNG market.

Oil Search's shares were 3.87 percent higher at 7.25 Australian dollars (5.50 U.S. dollars) on Monday.

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