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Qatar sees new LNG mega-trains coming online in 3-6 month intervals: al-Kaabi

Highlights

First train on track to start up in 2024

Just one contractor to build all four trains

Qatar's focus is on being lowest-cost producer

London — The head of Qatar Petroleum, Saad al-Kaabi, said Tuesday his country's four new LNG mega-trains would come online at intervals of three to six months after the first starts up in 2024.

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Al-Kaabi, who is also Qatar's energy minister, told the Oil & Money conference in London that the producer was also not concerned about the state of the global gas market, preferring to focus instead on being the "lowest-cost producer."

Qatar Petroleum plans to raise the country's LNG production capacity to 110 million mt from 77 million mt a year withthe construction of four new mega-trains of 8 million mt/year each.

The exact timeline of the expansion, which also involves new developments at the giant offshore North Field, depends on the award of construction contracts, al-Kaabi said.

"We will start in 2024," he said, with the trains coming online in a "staggered" way of three to six months after that.

"We are on track but it is the construction scheduling that will determine some of that," al-Kaabi said.

Al-Kaabi said there were currently three "very capable" consortiums in the running for the main construction contract.

"The main contract is going to one contractor to build the trains," he said.

The LNG expansion project could also involve some international oil companies taking equity stakes, though al-Kaabi reiterated that Qatar was also happy to go it alone.

"We have selected a few good partners that have worked with us, and we are going to look at the offers that we get todecide," he said, adding: "We are not in a hurry."

Al-Kaabi said much depended on the value the partners could bring, including in offering Qatar Petroleum the potential to take an interest in assets elsewhere.

"It could be something that we want to do outside Qatar -- it could be swaps, some support in the market, an offtake [arrangement]. It could be a lot of things."

Related interview: Qatar Petroleum CEO outlines his vision for the world's largest LNG producer

MARKET EVOLUTION

Asked about Qatar's view of the evolution of the LNG market -- given that the four new trains are due online at a time that other new projects could also be starting up -- al-Kaabi said the state of the market was not his concern.

"We are focused on what we do. We don't compete with anyone. I don't pay attention to that," he said.

"My focus is how we can be the lowest-cost producer. We are price takers," he said, adding that if gas prices stayed low, and other producers went out of business, then Qatar "will always have a market."

The only price risk, al-Kaabi said, was the oil price, given that much of Qatar's LNG is sold at oil-indexed prices.

"The oil price is up and down -- we've seen many cycles," he said, adding that Qatar still always preferred a crude oil link in its LNG sales.

Al-Kaabi also said there was little likelihood of new gas-to-liquids projects being developed in the future.

Qatar is home to the major Pearl gas-to-liquids plant, but al-Kaabi said higher oil prices were needed to make new projects economically viable.

And asked on the sidelines of the conference whether Qatar Petroleum would follow Saudi Aramco's lead and consider aninitial public offering of its core business, al-Kaabi said there was "definitely no plan to do that."

-- Stuart Elliott, Stuart.Elliott@spglobal.com

-- Herman Wang, herman.wang@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Dart, jonathan.dart@spglobal.com