The UK/Dutch Shell Group will start production at its Ras Laffan Pearl gas-to-liquids (GTL) project in Qatar in 2011, according to a senior company executive.

Gerrit-Jan Smitskamp, Shell’s Middle East vice-president, said the project will cost $18-19bn to develop. The company’s previous estimates put the cost at $16-20bn. He was speaking at the MEED Qatar 2010 conference in Doha on 26 January.

In 2004, Shell said the first 70,000-barrel-a-day (b/d) phase of the scheme would start production in 2009 and that the second phase would be completed in 2011.

The Pearl project will be the first integrated GTL operation in the world, with upstream natural gas production integrated with an onshore conversion plant.

Shell’s offshore and onshore GTL facilities will convert about 1.6 billion cubic feet a day (cf/d) of natural gas produced at Qatar’s North field into liquid fuels such as diesel and naphtha. They will also produce about 120,000 b/d of condensate and liquefied petroleum gas.

The project was described at the conference by Qatar’s Energy & Industry Minister Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah as a major step towards meeting demand for cleaner fuels. It will have an output capacity of 140,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day.

Qatar already produces 30,000 b/d from the Oryx GTL plant, a joint venture with South Africa’s Sasol and US major Chevron.