SYDNEY (AFP) – Energy group Chevron Monday announced a new natural gas discovery off Western Australia that will help support the massive Gorgon liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

Chevron, Shell and ExxonMobil last month agreed to develop the Gorgon field, spending some 43 billion Australian dollars (39.25 billion US) in the initial construction phase of the country's largest-ever resources development.

The energy giant said gas was found in about 100 metres (330 feet) of the 4,500 metres drilled in the Achilles-1 exploration well which lies about 160 kilometres (100 miles) offshore.

"The success of our drilling programme will provide additional natural gas to underpin the Gorgon and Wheatstone projects," Chevron Australia managing director Roy Krzywosinski said in a statement.

The Gorgon project, expected to begin production in 2014, is designed to be an important source of energy for Asia's burgeoning economies.

It is already supported by supply contracts with China, Japan, India and South Korea worth a combined 145 billion Australian dollars.

Chevron owns a 50 percent stake in Gorgon and will operate the plant, with ExxonMobil and S