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Qatar LNG: Mega-trains and major ambitions

07.01.2012  |  Blume, Adrienne ,  Hydrocarbon Processing Staff, Houston, TX

Qatargas hopes to become the world’s premier LNG producer by 2015, seeking innovation, operating excellence, corporate citizenship and environmental responsibility.

Keywords: [LNG] [Qatar] [gas processing] [construction] [engineering]

Qatargas, the company behind what is presently the world’s largest liquefied natural gas (LNG) production facility, put down roots in 1984 and is headquartered in Doha, Qatar. It was the first company to start up LNG operations in Qatar, and it remains the largest. RasGas, the world’s second-biggest producer of LNG and the only other producer in Qatar, came on the scene in 2001 and now has seven trains to rival those of Qatargas. The two companies boast a combined production capacity of 77 MMtpy, with Qatargas accounting for 42 MMtpy of the total. Fig. 1 shows the robust growth in Qatar’s LNG production capacity from 1996–2011.

  Fig. 1.  Qatar’s LNG capacity has expanded
  from just over 1 Bcfd in 1996 to more than 10
  Bcfd in 2011.

Qatargas’ seven LNG trains are fed by Qatar’s North Field, which is part of the South Pars/North Dome natural gas and condensate field shared by Qatar and Iraq—the largest nonassociated gas field in the world. According to the US International Energy Agency, the field holds an estimated 1,800 trillion ft3 (51 trillion m3) of in-situ natural gas and around 50 billion bbl (7.9 billion m3) of gas condensate.

LNG evolution

Qatargas commenced LNG exports to Japan and Spain in January 1997 with the startup of the Qatargas I project in Ras Laffan Industrial City. The first phase encompassed three trains with an initial collective capacity of 6 million tons per year (MMtpy); total capacity was lifted to 9.6 MMtpy after the completion of a debottlenecking project in 2005. The capacity gain from the debottlenecking also helped Qatar overtake Indonesia in 2006 as the world’s largest LNG exporter. Qatargas I stakeholders include Qatar Petroleum (65%), ExxonMobil (10%), Total (10%), Mitsui (7.5%) and Marubeni (7.5%).

The site’s second phase, Qatargas II, was the world’s first fully integrated value-chain LNG venture when it debuted in April 2009. It has two LNG mega-trains (Fig. 2), each with a capacity of 7.8 MMtpy, along with five 145,000-m3 LNG storage tanks. The project is tied to Europe’s largest LNG receiving terminal, South Hook LNG, which is located at Milford Haven in Pembrokeshire, Wales. The UK sources 20% of its natural gas demand through this terminal. Some LNG from Qatargas II is sent elsewhere in Europe and also Asia and the US. Train 4 is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum (70%) and ExxonMobil (30%), while ownership of Train 5 is divided among Qatar Petroleum (65%), ExxonMobil (18.3%) and Total (16.7%).

  Fig. 2.  Qatargas’ LNG mega-trains 4 and 5.
  Photo courtesy of Technip.

Qatargas II won several environmental and project development awards in 2007 and 2008. Environmental sensitivity, as demonstrated by offshore workers’ careful relocation of more than 4,500 coral colonies from the sea floor to specially prepared ecoreefs, played an important role in the project. Other environmental precautions include the development of a common volatile organic compound (VOC) control system to reduce smog at the Ras Laffan port; smokeless flaring at the LNG facility; the rescuing and releasing of sea snakes from cooling seawater pipes; and an extensive recycling program.

The project’s efficient and safe development also was praised. Qatargas II’s 30 wells were completed 27 rig-months ahead of schedule, and the project saw the fastest well drilling in the North Field—14,500 ft of rock in only 33 days. Also, Qatargas recorded 108 days without a single medical treatment or injury in 2008, which James Adams, former CEO of Qatargas II, likened to an average family of five going 200 years without needing to see a doctor.

LNG production expanded in November 2010 with the startup of Qatargas III, which included the construction of another 7.8-MMtpy LNG mega-train and two subsea pipelines, and the drilling of 33 wells. The pipelines and wells are shared with Qatargas IV, as the third and fourth phases were designed by a joint asset development team to capitalize on synergies between the two projects. Qatargas III’s Train 6 exports LNG to the US, Asia and Europe, and is owned by Qatar Petroleum (68.5%), ConocoPhillips (30%) and Mitsui (1.5%).

The fourth and final Qatargas LNG expansion project, Qatargas IV, commenced production of 7.8 MMtpy of LNG at its single mega-train in January 2011. Qatargas II, III and IV utilize Air Products’ proprietary APX processing technology, which generates economies of scale and achieves integration previously unseen in the LNG industry. Exports from Qatargas IV—a joint venture of Qatar Petroleum (70%) and Royal Dutch Shell (30%)—are sent to North America, the Middle East and Asia.

Other Qatargas developments at the Ras Laffan site include the 146,000-bpd Laffan condensate refinery, which came onstream in September 2009 and which processes North Field condensate produced by both Qatargas and RasGas. The refinery has production capacities of 61,000 bpsd of naphtha, 52,000 bpsd of kerosine/jet fuel, 24,000 bpsd of gasoil and 9,000 bpsd of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). A second, 146,000-bpd condensate refinery is slated to start up in early 2016. Laffan I refinery shareholders include Qatar Petroleum (51%), ExxonMobil (10%), Total (10%), Idemitsu Kosan (10%), Cosmo Oil (10%), Mitsui (4.5%) and Marubeni (4.5%).

Vision for the future

Qatargas aims to become the world’s premier LNG producer by 2015 through innovation, operating excellence, corporate citizenship and environmental responsibility. At the Flame 2012 conference in Amsterdam in mid-April 2012, Qatargas CEO Alaa Abu Jbara noted, “One of the key achievements of Qatargas has been our ability to maintain reliability in our operations. Thus, our history of project execution is a key factor in our continued future success.”

Looking to the future, Mr. Abu Jbara believes that Qatar’s prominence as an LNG exporter will prevail, despite predictions that the US (which is rich in shale gas) or Australia (which is constructing multiple LNG projects) could overtake Qatar as the world’s largest LNG exporter in the next six to eight years.

Mr. Abu Jbara asserted, “In a world of competition for long-term energy supplies, access to LNG produced in Qatar is considered by many as a strategically important component of a diversified LNG supply portfolio, offering unparalleled security of supply.” HP

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kaushik sinha

Will Qatargas in future will be able to face the onslaught from advent of US Shale gas?

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