Qatar’s Energy Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah has confirmed the government will make a decision on whether to go ahead with a series of ethane cracker projects before the end of January 2010.

The government is considering proposals from the US’ ExxonMobil Corporation, France’s Total Petrochemicals, the UK/Dutch Shell Group and South Korea’s Honam Corporation.

State-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP) signed agreements with the companies between 2005 and 2007 to develop new petrochemicals projects using ethane gas as feedstock.

However, QP has yet to agree to build any of the projects.

Al-Attiyah said a decision over which, if any, of the schemes will go ahead is imminent. He was speaking at the inauguration of the Qatofin petrochemicals plant in Mesaieed on 24 November.

“We are discussing with everyone. Hopefully in just one or two months we will be clear,” he said.

Francois Cornelis, president of Total Petrochemicals, held talks with Al-Attiyah on his firm’s proposals immediately following the minister’s remarks.

The French firm already owns 20 per cent of Qatar Petrochemical Company and 36 per cent of Qatofin, two petrochemicals producers.

“We have finished our second project in Qatar and we are in talks about a third project,” said Cornelis, a few hours after his talks with the minister. However, he refused to reveal the details of the discussions.