The detailed HoA, which runs to over 60 pages, covers the full fiscal terms for the project, which will be executed under a development and production sharing agreement (DPSA). The signing of the DPSA is expected in the first half of 2004.

The GTL plant will comprise two 70,000-b/d trains, with the first unit due to be commissioned in 2008/09 and the second up to two years later. The products will be primarily naphtha and transport fuels, with smaller quantities of associated condensates and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG).

The plant will receive gas feedstock from a dedicated block in the North field, which will be developed with capacity of 1,600 million cubic feet a day of gas. Shell is due to drill its first two appraisal wells in the block in 2004.

Front-end engineering and design (FEED) work on the project is expected to start in early 2004 and will take 14-15 months to complete. Engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) awards are due to be placed in late 2005.

Shell will use its proprietary GTL technology, which has been developed on its Bintula Malaysia facility. The 12,500-b/d plant is undergoing a debottlenecking, which will see capacity rise to 14,700 b/d.

Several other international oil companies are pursuing GTL projects at Ras Laffan. They include Marathon Oil Company, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobiland ChevronSasol.