State-owned Qatar Petroleum and France’s Total will launch their 25-year joint venture to explore the offshore Al-Shaheen oil field today.

Qatar Petroleum will hold 70 per cent stake in the North Oil Company, with the rest held by the French oil major, which will invest around $2bn.

Total replaced Danish firm Maersk Oil, which had been operating in the concession covering the North Field since 1992.

QP in a surprise move tendered a contract for the further development of the 300,000 barrel-a-day producing field located 80km off Qatar’s northeast coast. The agreement with Maersk expires on 14 July, with most employees working on the project expected to be employed with the new operator. Others have been re-allocated within Maersk’s global operations.

Total is expected to start selling Al-Shaheen crude from 17 July onwards, according to report by news agency Reuters.

The launch of the new partnership follows a successful month for Total, which signed a $4.8bn agreement to develop phase 11 of the South Pars field with the National Iranian Oil Company. Its other partners on the venture are China National Petroleum Company and Iran’s Petropars.

The French energy giant will develop the world’s largest gas field, which is shared with Qatar in a 20-year contract.

Following the Total-NIOC deal, Qatar announced a massive expansion of its side of South Pars, which it calls North Field. QP has planned an increase of a million barrels of oil equivalent a day of natural gas, condensate and associated products within five to seven years. Qatar lifted its self-imposed moratorium on development of the North Field in April, as exploration on the shared field has gathered momentum following the lift of sanctions over Iran.