Energy & Mining

The Big Break


LNG pulls Qatar's gas industry forward with NGL, condensates, and GTL projects experiencing a rise in prevalence.


Largely overlooked by state-owned Qatar Petroleum, Qatar’s LNG business is split between Qatargas and RasGas. Qatar Petroleum deals with upstream and downstream projects in the country’s oil and gas industry, with an emphasis on gas projects. Qatargas is made up of a consortium including Qatar Petroleum, Total, ExxonMobil, Mitsui, Marubeni, ConocoPhillips, and Royal Dutch Shell. RasGas is 70% owned by Qatar Petroleum and 30% owned by ExxonMobil. Qatargas is the world’s largest LNG producing company, providing some 42 million metric tons of LNG per year. RasGas is effectively the world’s second-largest LNG producing firm, operating seven LNG trains in Ras Laffan Industrial City, with a total annual capacity of approximately 37 million tons of LNG. The Qatar Gas Transport Company handles LNG export duties.

Providing the majority of natural gas is Qatar’s offshore North Gas Field. It has total recoverable gas of more than 25 tcm. The North Gas Field was discovered in 1971 and is considered to be the largest single non-associated gas reservoir in the world. Qatar shares the gas field with Iran, which has named its portion South Pars. Unlike Iran, Qatar has managed to reach global LNG status with the development of its share of the field. The development of Iran’s South Pars, on the other hand, has been stinted by cumbersome delays due to international sanctions.

Most of the field—around 6,000 square kilometers—is located in Qatar’s territorial waters. Its area is nearly half the land area of Qatar itself, an enormity that matches the very important role the field plays in Qatar’s energy future. Oil and gas made up approximately 60% of the country’s GDP in 2011 and all electricity capacity in Qatar is fired by gas. In 2010, Qatar’s total primary energy consumption was 77% gas and 23% petroleum.

Since 2005, North Field development has been put on hold to handle the costs of increasing gas projects arising and to allow ongoing gas projects time to come online. The moratorium did not affect Qatar’s natural gas development, as projects already in swing were able to come online and contribute to the country’s gas development. The moratorium is expected to be lifted in 2015.


Alongside natural gas, the North Field produces condensate and natural gas liquids (NGL). The EIA estimated the 2011 level of NGL output hit more than 1 million barrels per day (bbl/d), going beyond crude oil production. Experts anticipate condensate output to overtake crude by 2015.

In 2011, Qatar inaugurated Pearl GTL, the largest gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant in the world. The plant is located in Ras Laffan Industrial City and, at full capacity, converts 40 mcm per day of natural gas into 140,000 bbl/d of petroleum liquids and 120,000 bbl/d of oil equivalent of ethane and NGL. The $18-billion-to-$19-billion integrated GTL project is fully funded by Shell. The plant is a milestone for GTL producers around the world, as it utilizes GTL technology on a massive scale. Its integrated operation means that it brings together natural gas production upstream and an onshore conversion plant.

The last gas project to be approved prior to the 2005 moratorium is the Barzan gas project. The $10.4 billion plant will be developed in two phases. Train I will be brought onstream in 2014 and Train II in 2015, together producing 56 mcm of gas per day. The onshore facilities of the project will include a sulfur and NGL recovery unit, producing methane, ethane, propane, butane, and condensate. Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil are developing the project, with RasGas managing its construction. In March 2013, a new field was discovered in March 2013 and was heralded by Qatar’s Energy Minister Mohammed Saleh Al Sada as the first gas find in 42 years with an estimated 70 mcm of recoverable gas. Qatar Petroleum, Wintershall of Kassel, Germany, and Mitsui of Japan are planning to develop Block 4 North, a 544-square-kilometer reservoir off Qatar’s northern coast in the Persian Gulf. Until the moratorium is lifted in 2015, the block is pending development.


Qatar’s gas exports reach more than 20 countries around the world. In 2011, the country exported more than 100 bcm of LNG. The UK, Japan, India, and South Korea are top destinations for these exports, with Asia receiving nearly half of the load. Another 42% of the exported LNG was purchased by European customers in Belgium, the UK, and Spain. The Dolphin Project connects Qatar’s North Field gas to the UAE and Oman. The trans-border pipeline idea originally emerged in 1999 and did not become fully operational until 2007. Gas is piped from Qatar’s offshore plant in Ras Laffan, which processes 70 mcm of natural gas and liquids per day. The pipeline has a capacity of 91 mcm per day and addresses the need for more gas resources among GCC members. With the world looking to Qatar for gas, companies are avidly exploring the region. Royal Dutch Shell, China National Petroleum, Total, and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration are among the many looking to make finds in the gas-prolific Qatar. And while Qatar is most certainly on the right track, it will need to take its gas to the next level by going downstream and being able to export final products and commodities to secure added value.

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