RasGas, a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum (QP) and the world's biggest oil company, ExxonMobil, will launch its Train 5 liquefied natural gas (LNG) production plant this month. The venture is one of the largest of its kind in the world.
Due to technological advances, Train 5 will be able to ship LNG efficiently over long distances, making it competitive with pipeline shipments. Like Trains 3 and 4, the new plant will have a production capacity of 4.7m tonnes per annum (Mta) of LNG, making it one of the largest and most productive trains in the world.
The majority of the LNG from Train 5 will head to European gas markets via various gas wholesalers, including Belgian wholesaler Distrigas.
"By the end of the decade, RasGas will have production capacity of approximately 37 Mta and will supply markets around the world including South Korea, India, Taiwan, Belgium, Italy, Spain and the US. Qatar's total production capacity will be 77 Mta and Qatar LNG will account for a third of the projected world supply in 2010," said RasGas Managing Director Mohammed Saleh al-Sada.
In 2008, RasGas will also begin supplying LNG to the Chinese Petroleum Corporation and in 2009 to the Golden Pass LNG Terminal in the US. To help fulfill these contracts, RasGas will construct two more LNG production plants, Trains 6 and 7. Each will have a production capacity of 7.8 Mta, which together with similar trains built by sister company Qatargas, will make them the world's biggest LNG plants. Train 6 is scheduled to come on stream in 2008 and Train 7 in 2009. The two are expected to be mostly dedicated to fulfilling the huge ExxonMobil contract to supply the US market with first deliveries expected in 2008. This is expected to contribute significantly to meeting US gas demand.
Like North America, and major consumers in Asia, Europe doesn't want to rely too heavily on a single supplier. In the case of European countries, they are increasingly turning to LNG due to its environmental benefits in relation to oil-based fuels and are already negotiating long-term contracts to ensure reliable and secure supplies. Qatar is in an enviable shipping lane location in the Gulf, and has the potential to supply them all.
Japan, South Korea and India are already well-established markets for LNG. This past February, at a ceremony in South Korea, RasGas announced they would be adding another long-term charter LNG tanker to their increasing LNG cargo fleet. This means RasGas took another major step towards controlling their transportation links with a growing portfolio of worldwide LNG customers. Japanese importers have already requested double their LNG purchases to about 12 Mta. Likewise, the Koreans are willing to raise their orders from five to over nine Mta.
The International Energy Agency published a report in November 2006 that said global LNG demand rose by almost one third between 2000 and 2005. The IEA estimates that LNG capacity will double by 2010 to 345 Mta, at a projected investment cost of $73bn.
The IEA also expects natural gas consumption to increase around the world over the next 25 years by an average 2% per year to reach 4.7 trillion cu m by 2030. Although Europe is expected to be importing about 90% of its gas by that time, the fastest growing countries will be China, where gas demand will grow 5.1% per year, India at 4.2% and Brazil at 3.8%.
Another project between ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum is the LNG import terminal in Milford Haven, UK. They have recently announced that it will open in 2008 and will operate as demand requires. ExxonMobil will export LNG on ships from Qatar in partnership with QP. The LNG will be stored in tankers before being turned back into gas and injected into the national network when needed. The two companies are building the South Hook LNG terminal to tap growing demand in the UK, Europe's biggest gas market.