Doha emerges as major oil player

12 October 2010

In barely a decade, Qatar has transformed itself from a bit-part performer on the oil scene to the fifteenth biggest energy exporter in the world – seeking partnerships with international oil majors along the way

Key Qatar oil fact

Over the past decade, Qatar’s production rose from 723,000 b/d to an average of 1.34 million b/d

b/d=Barrels a day. Source: BP

The energy sector has made Qatar one of the world’s fastest-growing economies with the highest per-capita income. Oil and gas account for more than 60 per cent of gross domestic product, 85 per cent of exports and 70 per cent of state revenues.

Qatar average daily crude oil production
YearThousand barrels a day
1960174.6
1970362.40
1980471.40
1990405.6
2000648.2
2009733
Source: Opec

Qatar joined Opec in 1961, just a year after the organisation was created at the Baghdad conference. It may be the smallest member in terms of population, but it stands as one of the cartel’s most influential members.

Qatar’s production has been steadily growing over the past decade, rising from 723,000 barrels a day (b/d) in 1999 to an average of 1.34 million b/d, according to UK oil major BP. Non-crude liquids make up a significant proportion of production, estimated to be as much as 370,000b/d.

As the fifteenth largest exporter in the world, oil revenues make a major contribution to the Qatari economy. But in 2008, their contribution was overtaken by earnings from gas exports.

Qatar Petroleum: Maximising efficiencies

State-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP) controls the hydrocarbons sector, covering both oil, gas and downstream activities. Unlike many national oil companies (NOCs) in the region, QP has sought partnerships with international oil majors, hoping to take advantage of their experience to maximise efficiencies, through production-sharing agreements.

It is no surprise they have been flocking to the call. Qatar possesses plentiful gas reserves and a stable political environment – two critical qualities oil majors look for in a joint venture.

The long-term outlook for Qatar’s upstream sector is muddied by uncertainty over the future of the North gas field and a slowdown in oil discoveries. The largest of Qatar’s major hydrocarbons-producing areas, the North field, is out of bounds to exploration until at least 2015, due to the moratorium on new projects imposed by the government in 2005 while it studies the impact of previous projects on the reservoir.

The country’s oil fields are also maturing. Despite a raft of exploration and production activity, there have been few crude discoveries in recent years. To offset its projected declines, QP is considering the use of enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques at several of its oldest fields. Denmark’s Maersk Oil, which signed a production-sharing agreement with QP in 1992, completed the expansion of the Al-Shaheen oilfield in March after installing 15 new platforms and other offshore facilities.

In partnership with international oil companies

The estimated $6.2bn project was originally aimed at increasing production capacity at the offshore field to 525,000 b/d from about 240,000 b/d. Current production, however, stands at 300,000 b/d due to Qatar’s Opec quota. The field is located 90km north of Doha, straddling the North field gas deposits with estimated oil reserves of 15 billion barrels.

Though Maersk’s block 5 will account for the largest slice of Qatar’s oil production rise, further increases will come from offshore activity carried out by a host of international oil companies (IOCs). EOR techniques are also being deployed at the Dukhan, Bul Hanine and Maydan Marjam oil fields. The onshore Dukhan field, located along the west coast of the peninsula, is the country’s largest producing oil field.

Oil will continue to play a major contribution to the country’s economy, but with the resources at its disposal, Doha has rightly focused its energies on its gas sector. Work is coming to an end on the three new liquefied natural gas trains at Ras Laffan that will lift production to 77 million tonnes a year.

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