Qatar's hydrocarbons sector shows recovery signs

25 July 2012

Project awards 46 per cent up from last half of 2011 with future awards being driven by downstream sector

Qatar’s oil, gas and petrochemicals sectors have been going through a period of consolidation over the past year as Doha’s focus has been firmly set on other priorities.

The fact that the tiny Gulf state has the 2022 football World Cup to prepare for does not alter the fact that its hydrocarbons sector is still its most important. It is, after all, the sector that is expected to provide the funds to pay for everything.

In the first half of 2012, four major projects were awarded totalling $930m, according to the Middle East projects tracker MEED Projects. Compared with the huge spending of previous years, the figure is comparatively small. However, combined with upcoming schemes in the petrochemicals sector, Qatar’s mid- and downstream hydrocarbon sectors are beginning to show green shoots of recovery.

On another positive note, the figure is also $430m higher than the awards made in the second half of 2011, which represents an increase of 46 per cent. A comparison with the corresponding period of 2011, however, is where the positivity ends.

During that period, $3.279bn was awarded with the majority coming from two large contracts on the offshore Barzan gas field development, Qatar’s last major upstream project. This means that year-on-year project awards for the first half of 2012 dropped by 82 per cent.

It is understandable that Doha wants to consolidate after such massive spending between 2006 and 2011. Qatar’s growth averaged just over 19 per cent for those years, with the largest contribution to that figure being made by the construction of liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure.

With Asian LNG prices now hitting $16 a million BTUs, Qatar has worked hard to redirect as much of its LNG into that market. This has been a success and should mean that hydrocarbons revenues for the country will be almost $100bn.

The forecast for the next 6-12 months shows some optimism. MEED Projects states there are just over $2bn-worth of oil and gas projects in Qatar at the front-end engineering and design (feed), contractor pre-qualification phase, or main contract tender phase.

All schemes at this stage are midstream or downstream, which is to be expected until a decision is made to resume development of the offshore North field, the world’s largest non-associated gas field. The field has a moratorium on any development until 2015.  

In the petrochemicals sector, the $6.4bn Ras Laffan Olefins project is at the contractor pre-qualification phase. Feed awards on this scheme could be made in 2012, but most of the awards should go in 2013.

That more than $8bn-worth of projects are to be awarded over the next 12 months indicates Qatar is starting to look at adding value to its gas. This figure is nowhere near the tens of billions of dollars spent between 2006 and 2011, but for Doha-based international contractors, it offers some respite after a year of non-activity.

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