QP will hold an 80 per cent stake in the joint venture company, with the remaining 20 per cent split equally between TotalFinaElf and ExxonMobil. QP described the shareholding structure as ‘initial’, implying that other shareholders may be taken on board. When the project was first discussed in the mid-1990s, all the shareholders in the Qatargas and Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company (RasGas) ventures were expected to participate in the estimated $400 million project.

QP said that work on the front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract is due to begin in January, and the engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract in the second quarter of 2004. The frontrunner for the contract is France’s Technip-Coflexip. Two other companies – Japan’s JGC Corporation and the US’ Bechtel – are competing for the FEED.

The refinery will produce liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), naphtha, kerosine and diesel oil. The project is being undertaken to process the rising volumes of condensate produced by Qatargas and RasGas.