Qatar to boost production from vast underwater gas field

By Maggie Hyde, Associated Press

Qatar laid out plans on Monday to boost production from a vast underwater natural gas field by 10 percent, giving the energy-rich Gulf nation potential new revenue as it pursues ambitious infrastructure plans.

In this April 4, 2009 file photo, a gas production facility is seen at Ras Laffan, Qatar. State-run Qatar Petroleum said Monday, April 3, 2017, that it plans to boost production from a vast underwater natural gas field by 10 percent giving it the capacity to export some 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day from the North Field. Qatar is a small but wealthy member of OPEC that generates most of its income from natural gas rather than crude oil. (AP Photos/Maneesh Bakshi, File)

DOHA, Qatar (AP) — Qatar laid out plans on Monday to boost production from a vast underwater natural gas field by 10 percent, giving the energy-rich Gulf nation potential new revenue as it pursues ambitious infrastructure plans.

Qatar is a small but wealthy member of OPEC that generates most of its income from natural gas rather than crude oil. It exports the gas by chilling it to a form known as liquefied natural gas, or LNG, that can be shipped on tankers to customers around the world.

State-run Qatar Petroleum said a new gas project on the southern portion of the North Field would give the 2022 World Cup host capacity to export some additional 2 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Current production from the field is around 21 billion cubic feet daily, QP President and CEO Saad Sherida al-Kaabi said.

"Our aspiration is to remain the leader in LNG export, whether it's from Qatar or elsewhere," he told The Associated Press after announcing the project in the Qatari capital, Doha. "We will remain the dominant force in LNG for a very long time."

Al-Kaabi said the planned project follows studies and the drilling of exploratory wells that began in 2005. Work on the project is expected to begin in the coming few months, and could take five to seven years to complete.

Qatar is in the midst of a massive building boom as it prepares to host soccer's biggest tournament in five years' time. Its finance minister told reporters in February that the country is spending nearly half a billion dollars each week preparing for the games.

Qatar shares control of the North Field with Iran, which lies on the other side of the Persian Gulf. The two countries sit on opposing sides of a number of regional conflicts, including the war in Syria, though they maintain diplomatic relations.

Al-Kaabi downplayed the potential for any dispute with Iran over its plans to increase output from the field.

"Iran and Qatar have an excellent political relationship, for us as technicians we have an excellent technical relationship. We have a committee that meets regularly to discuss what both sides are doing," he said.

"So there's a mutual understanding of what is happening," he continued. "They're free to do what they want on their side of the field and we're free to do what we want on our side of the field."

Iran is also looking to boost output from the shared field, which it calls South Pars.

Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh said late last month that his country aims to inaugurate several projects valued at $20 billion over the next year.

Qatar's gas industry is dependent on partnerships with major international energy companies, including ConocoPhillips Co. and Total SA. The former head of one of the companies Qatar is closest to, Exxon Mobil Corp., is now the top U.S. diplomat under President Donald Trump.

In the interview with the AP, al-Kaabi heaped praise on U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, someone he called a "good friend" that Qatar has gotten to know well during his time at the head of Exxon Mobil.

"He's an excellent man who stands for ethics, integrity and (is) a great business leader," al-Kaabi said. "I think he will do a great job in his job there because he has always been in cooperation with many leaders around the world to promote his business."

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