Nasser Jaidah, chief executive officer of Qatar Petroleum International, says he met with executives from PetroChina and its parent company, China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), in Beijing in November.

“We are in discussions for a refinery and also a petrochemical plant with PetroChina. We are trying to work together on establishing a joint venture,” says Jaidah, without specifying a timeframe.

Qatar is also understood to be considering a request from China to supply liquefied natural gas (LNG) to its Zhejiang LNG terminal.

Jaidah says the benefits of working together are too good to ignore. “They want security of supply and we can potentially access a big market. It is a good fit,” he says.

An executive close to Qatar’s talks with PetroChina says the UK/Dutch Shell Group indicated early interest in the Qatar-China joint venture, although its participation in any agreement has yet to be decided. PetroChina, the listed arm of CNPC, floated on the Shanghai index in early November and has a market capitalisation of more than $1trillion.

Qatar’s potential entry into the Chinese market comes after Saudi Aramco signed a deal in September to upgrade a refinery in China’s Fujian province. The refinery, which is expected to begin operating in early 2009, will process Aramco’s heavy crude into lighter products.