Oil and gas company Shell has joined QatarEnergy’s $29bn project to expand production at the world’s biggest natural gas field, becoming the fifth and final international partner.
The United Kingdom-based company took a 6.25 percent stake for an undisclosed sum, joining TotalEnergies, Eni, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil in the North Field East project.
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The North Field expansion is the biggest liquefied natural gas (LNG) project ever seen, QatarEnergy said. It comes at a time of intense geopolitical tensions over energy supplies as the ongoing war in Ukraine pushed European countries to stop using Russian resources.
The expansion is predicted to increase Qatar’s LNG production from the current 77 million tonnes a year to 110 million tonnes by 2027.
“As one of the largest players in the LNG business, [Shell] have a lot to bring to help meet global energy demand and security,” said Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, who is also the QatarEnergy president and CEO.
QatarEnergy estimates that the North Field, which extends under the Gulf into Iranian territory, holds about 10 percent of the world’s known gas reserves.
The project’s LNG – the cooled form of gas that makes it easier to transport – is expected to come on line in 2026.
The project has taken on growing international importance after Europe’s energy supplies took a hit following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
South Korea, Japan and China have been the main markets for Qatar’s LNG.
But since an energy crisis hit Europe last year, the Gulf state has helped the UK with extra supplies, and also announced a cooperation deal with Germany.
Europe has in the past rejected the long-term deals with Qatar for energy, but the Ukraine war has forced a change in attitude.
Qatar’s gas is among the cheapest to produce and has fuelled an economic miracle in the small country, which boasts the world’s highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita.
Qatar is also expected to announce details of another expansion, the North Field South, in the coming months.