Qatar Seeks Chemical Partners as Exxon, Conoco Look

Qatar, the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas, is seeking partners to build two petrochemical plants as companies like Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips seek investment opportunities there.

The Persian Gulf emirate is in talks with Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell Plc and Chevron Phillips Chemical Co. as possible partners in construction of two facilities, Mohammed Yousef al-Mulla, head of Qatar Petrochemical Co., said today.

Qatar is using its gas reserves, the world’s third largest, to run petrochemical, aluminum and fertilizer factories as it diversifies its economy away from exporting LNG and crude oil. The Persian Gulf emirate, which today celebrated raising LNG capacity to 77 million metric tons a year, aims to increase annual production of petrochemicals to 28 million tons by 2014, al-Attiyah said in May.

Exxon is pursuing an agreement signed with Qatar to build a petrochemical plant in the country, Chief Executive Officer Rex Tillerson said at the celebration ceremony today.

“We’ve completed all the work. We’ve concluded commercial agreements,” Tillerson said. “We’re waiting for the Qataris to make a decision about what they want to do.”

Qapco, as the state petrochemicals company is known, is a subsidiary of Industries Qatar. Chevron Phillips is a joint venture between Chevron Corp. and ConocoPhillips.

‘Top of the List’

Conoco sees Qatar as being “at the top of the list of countries” where the company is likely to invest, Chief Executive Officer James Mulva said, according to a statement distributed ahead of the ceremony.

The company “continues to look for opportunities” to cooperate with Qatar in areas such as petrochemicals, oil and gas infrastructure, Mulva said.

The Houston-based company this year pulled out of two projects in the region, one in Saudi Arabia and the other in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates, and in 2007 withdrew from a U.A.E. refinery project.

Total SA has designs ready for a new petrochemical complex in Qatar if a $6 billion project announced by Exxon Mobil Corp. early this year is canceled, two people with knowledge of the matter said last month.

State-controlled Qatar Petroleum signed an agreement with Exxon in January to build a petrochemical complex that would be the emirate’s biggest single energy-related project since Shell’s Pearl gas-to-liquids plant was announced in 2006. Qatar may choose a different partner, a Qatar Petroleum official said in August.

Exxon, Shell, Conoco and Total are all partners with Qatar in its export-oriented LNG facilities. LNG can be transported by ship to markets not accessible by pipeline.

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