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Qatar, JX Nippon Sign 30-Year Offshore Exploration Agreement

Qatar Petroleum, the state-run energy company, and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp. signed a 30-year agreement to explore for gas off the northeast coast of the emirate.

JX Nippon pledged an initial investment of $100 million to explore so-called block A, located in an area of 6,173 square kilometers, Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Qatar Petroleum’s director of oil and gas ventures, said at a signing ceremony in Doha today. Additional money may be invested if gas is produced from the block, he said.

Qatar, holder of the world’s third-largest gas reserves and the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas, seeks to increase gas output from areas outside the North Field, the world’s biggest gas reservoir. A moratorium has halted new development of the North Field until at least 2014.

Qatar Petroleum signed three agreements in the past two years with international companies to explore for gas off the country’s coast. China National Petroleum Corp. and Royal Dutch Shell Plc signed a 30-year agreement last May to explore block D. Cnooc Ltd., China’s biggest offshore oil explorer, signed a separate 25-year agreement in August 2009 to search for gas in a separate area.

Block A will be JX Nippon’s first exploration project in Qatar, Makoto Koseki, the company’s chief executive officer, said today. The company, an exploration subsidiary for JX Holding Inc., produces 140,000 oil-equivalent barrels a day of oil and gas, he said.

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