Qatar has transformed itself from a tiny emirate into a global gas export powerhouse. But the recent shale boom has raised questions for major gas producers about what their strategies should be going forward. In an exclusive interview, Mohamed bin Saleh Al-Sada, Qatar’s minister of industry and energy, talks about his country’s energy priorities.
After completing a massive investment on liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains, what is your next investment strategy? Are you going to focus on increasing oil production or further increase your LNG output?
First, let me point out that Qatar has been and remains a relatively small crude-oil producer compared with its neighbors. Qatar’s oil production has peaked at around 500,000 B/D during the 1970s, but, as fields aged, production started to decline until it reached around 300,000 B/D in 1987. Production exceeded 800,000 B/D in 2006 as Qatar entered into a number of production-sharing agreements with various international oil companies. Production has settled since 2008 at its current level of 700,000 B/D.
Qatar’s strategy in the development and production of its oil and gas fields is based on maximum recovery of reserves through the longest plateau of sustainable production levels.
To ensure steady production levels, Qatar Petroleum (QP) is going through a redevelopment program for its oil fields, which were originally developed with older technology. Major reservoir and fieldwide studies have been initiated to reassess the reserves and the long-term production prospects for each field using improved- and enhanced-oil-recovery techniques with the latest cutting-edge technology and powerful computer processing. Redevelopment will be pursued in light of the outcome of the studies.
What is your medium- and long-term investment strategy? How much do you plan to invest over the next 5 years?
I do not think it is about “how much one spends” but rather “where and how prudently is it spent.” Qatar Petroleum has an investment strategy that focuses on sustaining upstream production from our oil and gas fields in Qatar, adding value downstream, and growing our international portfolio.
One point I would like to stress in this respect is the emphasis the state of Qatar is placing on the development of its downstream industry. This is carried out with the aim of adding and enhancing the value of our products, thus consolidating Qatar’s position as a major player in the industry. Our downstream petrochemical industry development includes the second Laffan refinery; two world-scale cracker projects, Al-Sejeel and Al-Karaana; as well as other further downstream projects for products like butadine, helium, and aromatics.
These new projects will introduce additional derivative products, which will more than double Qatar’s petrochemical production from 10 million t/a today to 23 million by 2020. We are always on the lookout for opportunities to enhance the value of our products, particularly in the production of new intermediate and derivative products, like specialty and performance chemicals, fibers, elastomers, and industrial alloys.
How will new discoveries of conventional gas in the Mediterranean, sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia affect the global industry, and specifically Qatar, in the short, medium and long term?
Preliminary exploration has confirmed impressive reserves of gas and oil in the waters off the eastern Mediterranean shores, which has triggered the interest of several countries in that region.
East Africa is also set to play a key role in the future of the energy industry. Recent oil and gas discoveries in Mozambique, Uganda, Madagascar, and Kenya have already attracted substantial foreign investment. Furthermore, we believe that the future prospects for gas demand would be so large that it would absorb all the new gas reserves and probably more. Global gas demand has been growing consistently, and we have had the flexibility to replan our LNG marketing to meet growing demand in Asia and elsewhere. Therefore, Qatar’s role as an undisputed leader in the global energy market is set to remain for years.
What is Qatar’s current strategy for investing in projects outside of the country?
Qatar Petroleum International (QPI) is Qatar Petroleum’s main vehicle for international activities and is entrusted with making strategic commercial investments in the energy sector worldwide. The company aims to acquire assets through exploration and production projects and engage in strategic partnerships and business investments worldwide in the fields of petrochemicals, gas, power, refineries, and LNG receiving stations.
QPI is driving Qatar’s global diversification, expansion, and investment in the energy sector. Through establishing highly effective strategic partnerships and alliances, QPI endeavors to continue a worldwide campaign to amplify its position as an international energy investor.
QPI’s strategy is leading the company to international growth and global expansion by building an investment portfolio in the field of exploration and production in both Africa and North America, in addition to the study of other investment opportunities around the world. It is also undertaking investment in the petrochemical sector, which opens the door to trade Qatar products through collaboration with partners in North Africa and Asia.
What do you see as the biggest technological challenges facing QP?
The main challenge facing our sector is whether we would be successful in having the strategy, human resources, and the organization for fast, efficient, and proactive response to events facing our industry. This includes the adoption of novel and innovative technology upon which the industry has developed globally.
At QP, efforts are under way to help accelerate technology deployment and the transfer of research results by enhancing communication and collaboration between QP Research and Technology Center and internal/external stakeholders such as technology developing centers and end users.
What are Qatar’s current research and development priorities?
QP has recently established a Technology and Research Center to plan and execute research and development needs for existing business and new business opportunities. It is also designed to initiate, lead, and support initiatives toward acquisition, development, and retention of new knowledge that will deepen and broaden the technical capabilities of QP. The center’s current research and development priorities focus on activities and technologies that secure sustainability in the upstream activities of oil and gas operations. This covers production optimization, safe and efficient operations, asset integrity preservation, and environmental impact minimization, as well as downstream activities related to natural gas processing and treatment.
Where will the largest investments be made in upstream technologies now that the days of easy oil are over?
Our priority investments are focused on the redevelopment of Bul Hanine, Dukhan, and Maydan Mahzam. We are working with our partners to enhance and maintain production for all the fields managed under development and production sharing agreements. As I mentioned earlier, Qatar’s strategy is based on maximum recovery of reserves through the longest plateau of sustainable production levels.
As host country of IPTC, why are you hosting this event? What do you hope this event will achieve for Qatar and for the industry?
Since it was first held in Doha in 2005, IPTC has become a premier date on the international energy industry’s agenda, with increasing importance and significance. With its comprehensive technical presentations as well as high-level discussions of the latest developments and issues in the industry, it offers an important platform for networking and knowledge-sharing.
We are proud to host this major event for the third time, which enhances Qatar’s standing as an important economic, commercial, and industrial center and highlights its leading role in various sectors of the energy industry.
This year’s theme captures what the industry needs to have in the face of evolving energy trends worldwide and to overcome the technical challenges facing the industry at present.
Abdelghani Henni is a Middle East Staff Writer for the Journal of Petroleum Technology.