Doha has extended a freeze on new projects at its giant North field gas reservoir by a year, to allow more time for technical studies, according to Energy & Industry Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah.

The moratorium on projects at the field will remain in place until technical studies are completed in 2015, said Al-Attiyah at the MEED Qatar Projects 2010 conference in Doha on 26 January. This is a year later than the 2014 date the minister had given in the past.

The final decision on whether to further develop the field rests with the Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani.

“We will have the answer by 2015,” said Al-Attiyah. “Qatar will decide what it will do in the North field. We must be careful in the management of the reservoir. We are focusing on calculating our every step carefully. The management of the North field is purely technical, building a model of the field.”

With estimated reserves of 907.3 trillion cubic feet, the North field is the largest gas field in the world, accounting for 14.2 per cent of global reserves.

Qatar imposed a freeze on further projects at the field in 2005, due to concerns about the depletion of the field’s reserves. The moratorium was originally due to be lifted in 2007, but was delayed until 2014 to allow state energy company Qatar Petroleum time to collect data and make a final evaluation.

Qatar will meet its liquefied natural gas (LNG) production target of 77 million tonnes a year (t/y) by the end of the year, al-Attiyah said in the same speech.

The emirate currently produces 54 million t/y of LNG, but will reach the production milestone through the addition of three more LNG trains by the end of the 2010, following five years of massive investment in the energy sector.