Qatar Petroleum (QP) has doubled the size of its proposed North Field gas expansion, increasing the additional production capacity to 1 million barrels of oil equivalent a day (boe/d) of natural gas, condensate and associated products.

The project is the first capacity expansion at the North Field – the world’s largest gas field – since Doha placed the moratorium on developing the asset in 2005 to carry out studies on the field to assess its potential for further production growth.

“With the conclusion of further technical studies, we have decided that the best option would be to double the size of the project to 4 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) of gas, which constitutes a 20 per cent increase from the current North Field production rate,” says President and CEO of QP Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi.

QP said it will dedicate the additional gas output to the production and export of liquefied natural gas (LNG), increasing the country’s capacity by 30 per cent to 100 million tonnes a year (t/y) from 77 million t/y. his will consolidate the Gulf state’s position as the world’s largest LNG producer and exporter.

“Once completed, within 5-7 years from now, this project will raise the [total petroleum] production of the State of Qatar to about 6 million boe/d,” says Al-Kaabi.

In May, QP signed an agreement with Japan’s Chiyoda Corporation to conduct a detailed study to identify the modifications required to debottleneck liquefaction capacity to process the additional gas.

QP said the study is expected to be completed by the end of this year, which will allow the company to “kick-off the front-end engineering and design (feed) work early next year”.

The North Field development not only cemented Qatar as an LNG market leader but also drove production of natural gas liquids (NGLs), gas to liquids (GTL) and fuelled new petrochemicals, fertilisers and metals industries, driving Qatar to become one of the richest per-capita economies in the world.

However, the global market for LNG – still the country’s biggest earner – has become more crowded since 2005, and prices have halved since 2015 due to an oversupplied market.

The North Field, known as the South Pars field in Iran, covers an area of 9,700 square kilometres, of which 6,000 sq km is in Qatari territory and 3,700 sq km in Iran.

The new gas development comes at a difficult time for Qatar, with its diplomatic relationship with GCC neighbours Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Bahrain, in addition to Egypt, breaking down.

The four Arab governments have issued Doha with a list of demands including shutting down broadcaster Al-Jazeera, breaking off diplomatic relations with Iran and ceasing the alleged support of terrorist groups in the region.