Qatar’s vast North Field gas and Al Shaheen oil resource wealth have made the small Gulf State the Middle East’s offshore capital
Despite being a minor onshore producer, Qatar is a major offshore oil and gas player. Oil was first discovered in 1938 by Petroleum Development Qatar, now Qatar Petroleum Company (QPC), at the onshore Dukhan field – and production reached 40,000 bpd before the onset of the Second World War. Onshore production started in the same year and is believed to have reached peak production at around 368,000 boe/day in 2008 – around 25 times less than Saudi Arabia.
Shell’s discovery and development of the Idd-al-Shargi field by Shell in 1960 marked the beginning of a significant period of offshore activity. In 1972 the Idd-al-Shargi, Maydan-Mazham and Bul-Hainne fields were brought into production and, for the first time, offshore production levels exceeded those onshore.
Production and export of gas and LNG from Qatar is driven in the main by the giant offshore North field. It was discovered in 1979, and covers over 6,000km2. With estimated non-associated gas reserves of 14 Tcm, it is one of the world’s largest gas fields, and accounts for 98% of Qatar’s gas production. In 2004 Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Shell GTL Limited signed terms for the Pearl GTL project. The project involved installing upstream gas production facilities and an onshore GTL plant that would allow production of up to 140,000 bpd of GTL products – as well as significant volumes of associated condensate and LPGs. The continued exploitation of the offshore North field should see Qatari oil & gas production climb rapidly over the coming years and reach 4.7 million boe/d by 2015.
Much of the gas will be liquefied for export in facilities such as Ras Laffan.
Today, Qatar boasts one of MENA’s most rapidly growing offshore markets, which is set to see a substantial increase in expenditure over the next five years and beyond. An estimated $403 million was spent on focus segments in 2005 and this had more than tripled by 2008. 2009 saw some decline as oil price and service pricing pressure impacted negatively on the rig market. Recovery, however, is expected and strong visibility for rig contracts will enable expenditure growth to reach just under $2 billion by 2014 – average annual growth of 8.7% over the forecast period.