Qatar to become major player among gas producers

Dec 17, 2003 01:00 AM

Qatar is set for a boom in gas exports that will make it a top cross-regional supplier in an increasingly globalised market, as well as helping it diversify away from modest crude oil resources. Industry figures say the country's drive to exploit its reserves -- at least the world's third largest behind Russia and possibly Iran -- for export out of its region has stolen it a march on rival producers, and will help keep down prices in ever more hungry gas markets.
Qatar, though smaller than the US state of Connecticut, possesses the world's largest single gas deposit yet found -- the giant North Field.

It aims to be the world's top producer of both LNG and gas-to-liquid fuels (GTL) by the end of the decade. Because both products can be transported by sea, they allow producers to bypass the pipeline constraints that have traditionally tied gas within regional markets, and promise to help globalise some of the trade in world gas production that amounts to nearly 90 tcf a year.
"The reason for this is simple -- we have limited oil reserves," said Ali Al Hammadi, commercial and shipping manager for QatarGas, one of two multi-billion dollar ventures set up to drive diversification into LNG. State-run Qatar Petroleum offered a rare glimpse into its plans for the North Field at a petroleum conference in Doha.

Qatar Petroleum gas field development manager Saad Al Kaabi said the total cumulative output of billions of dollars of piped gas, LNG and GTL deals it has signed in the last few years would make little dent in the field's reserves. New deals have set Qatar on track to produce more than 60 mm tpy of LNG through its RasGas and QatarGas ventures.
RasGas (the Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company) is set to produce 36.6 mm tpy of LNG by the end of the decade, managing director Jerry Wolahan said. RasGas is mostly owned by Qatar Petroleum, with ExxonMobil taking just under a third in the venture. Its three projects will send gas to South Korea, Spain, Italy, India, Taiwan and the US.

Wolahan said the company was on the lookout for more deals, particularly into India's market, but that such projects would not be up and running within the decade -- although there might be room for sales of gas if production levels beat expectations. By 2010, QatarGas is set to produce a similarly large amount of LNG -- about 32 mm tpy.
QatarGas's ventures, which involve ExxonMobil, Conoco-Phillips and Total, among others, will send gas to Japan, Spain, the UK and the US. QatarGas’s Al Hammadi said the company was looking to Europe and the US for more deals.

The world's reigning LNG heavyweight is Indonesia, with exports of about 25 mm tpy, according to BP's 2002 statistical review of energy, and few new projects in the pipeline. With its bold expansion plans, Qatar is set to oust its rival from the top spot.
"We are going to be the biggest supplier of LNG by 2010," Qatar Petroleum's Al Kaabi said.

Source: Gulf Daily News
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