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Qatar Delays GTL Project with Marathon, ConocoPhillips

Qatar's planned natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) projects with Marathon Oil Co. and ConocoPhillips, as well as other proposed projects, will be delayed for three years because production has ramped up faster than anticipated, the country's energy minister said last week.

Qatar planned to reach 40 million tons/year of natural gas liquids output at its North Field by 2020, but it now expects to have 77 million tons of liquids by 2010. Abdullah bin Hamad Al Attiyah said in Trinidad last week that if Qatar continues to ramp up production, it could leave future generations without gas reserves. Qatar is said to have the third largest volume of gas reserves in the world, and the North Field is said to hold 900 Tcf.

"Our concern is how to keep 25 Bcf/d for 100 years," Al Attiyah said. "We are a country, not a company."

Qatar has several GTL projects already underway, including the construction of what is said to be the world's largest GTL plant in Ras Laffan, Qatar. The plant is being built by Qatar Shell GTL Ltd., a Royal Dutch/Shell Group company (see NGI, Oct. 27, 2003).

The halt in GTL projects also will not affect some of the liquefied natural gas (LNG) transactions that state-owned Qatar Petroleum has signed in the past year (see NGI, March 7). Included is one by Royal Dutch/Shell Group, which signed a $6 billion deal to develop an LNG train, and in another transaction, France's Total bought a 16.7% stake in the Qatargas II LNG train from partners Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil for $3.5 billion.

Despite the delay in developing GTL projects, Marathon said that it remains committed to work with Qatar to develop a plant with a capacity of 140,000 bbl/d. Marathon is jointly developing the project with ConocoPhillips.

The delay, said a Marathon spokesman, "is Qatar's desire to ensure that they manage the giant North gas field in the most effective manner and they're currently reviewing their long-term gas production delivery plans. That's a reasonable and responsible approach."

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