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Qatar Adds Another LNG 'Mega Train'

Train 6 at Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. Ltd. 3 (Ras Laffan 3) has begun operation at Ras Laffan Industrial City in Qatar, ExxonMobil Corp. said last Wednesday. However, the company is being tight-lipped on where the liquefied natural gas (LNG) output might be delivered.

The project is a joint venture of Qatar Petroleum (70%) and ExxonMobil Ras Laffan (III) Ltd. (30%) and represents an expansion of the existing LNG production facilities operated by RasGas Co. Ltd.

Train 6 is designed to produce 7.8 million tons/year, matching the capacity of the largest LNG train in the world, also located in Qatar. "These mega facilities have sufficient scale to competitively reach markets all around the globe," ExxonMobil said. In addition, Ras Laffan 3 is also constructing its second 7.8 million tons/year train, known as Train 7, expected to start-up in late 2009. Supplies for both Trains 6 and 7 will come from Qatar's giant North Field, which is estimated to contain in excess of 900 Tcf of natural gas, the company said.

"As we look at our LNG business in total, we're not commenting specifically on the contract details" of where Train 6 shipments may be headed, ExxonMobil's David Rosenthal, vice president of investor relations said late last month (see NGI, Aug. 3). "Two-thirds is destined for markets in the Asia-Pacific, and the balance is to northern Europe and U.S. regas [regasification] terminals..."

New regasification facilities are in place in the United Kingdom and in the Adriatic Sea. ExxonMobil, which holds stakes in the Golden Pass LNG import terminal near Sabine Pass, TX, should be ready to take deliveries next year, Rosenthal said. Golden Pass is a venture consisting of affiliates of Qatar Petroleum (70%), ExxonMobil (17.6%) and ConocoPhillips (12.4%) and is expected to start up in 2010.

The output of the new train will contribute to the global supply of LNG, much of which a number of energy analysts had expected to come to the United States. However, predictions of a wave of LNG imports have so far turned out to be exaggerated at best (see NGI, July 13).

According to analysis by Tudor, Pickering, Holt & Co. Securities Inc., sendout from U.S. LNG regasification facilities has been tracking at levels equal to a year ago during July and August at about 1.1 Bcf/d and 0.9 Bcf/d, respectively. However, sendout during the second quarter was 1.3 Bcf/d, up from 0.9 Bcf/d in the year-ago quarter, and during the first quarter sendout was 1 Bcf/d, up from 0.8 Bcf/d in the first quarter of 2008.

"Working in partnership with Qatar Petroleum, Ras Laffan 3 Train 6 represents yet another technological milestone that will help supply the growing global demand for clean-burning natural gas," said Neil Duffin, president, ExxonMobil Development Co. "Advanced technologies, strong project execution skills and economies of scale have reduced the cost of producing and transporting LNG, thereby extending our ability to bring LNG to more people around the world."

Ras Laffan 3 is part of a full value-chain investment that includes the facilities associated with gas production and liquefaction in Qatar, coupled with investments by affiliates of Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil in 12 new Q-Flex LNG vessels and the Golden Pass terminal.

Qatar has become the world's largest LNG supplier, according to ExxonMobil. Through joint ventures with Qatar Petroleum, ExxonMobil has an interest in 12 trains in Qatar to supply LNG to markets in Asia, Europe and North America (see related story). Ras Laffan 3 Train 6 is the second 7.8 million ton/year LNG plant brought online by Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil joint ventures this year.

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