Qatar Finds First Natural Gas Deposit in 42 Years, Minister Says

Qatar, the emirate with the third-largest global reserves of natural gas, found a deposit with 2.5 trillion cubic feet of the fuel, its first discovery since uncovering the world’s biggest gas field 42 years ago.

State-run Qatar Petroleum, Wintershall AG and Mitsui & Co plan to develop the reservoir in a 544 square-kilometer (338 square-mile) area called block 4N off the Persian Gulf state’s northern coast, the companies said today at a news conference in the Qatari capital, Doha. Qatar’s North Field, shared with neighboring Iran, was discovered in 1971 and provides the emirate with 900 trillion cubic feet in gas reserves.

“We will start production, God willing, in the next few years” from Block 4N, Mohammed Saleh Al Sada, Qatar’s energy minister, told reporters. “We have already started planning and looking at different engineering options.”

The discovery is larger than Germany’s total proven gas reserves, which the BP Statistical Review of World Energy published in June 2012 lists at 2.2 trillion cubic feet. Russia holds the biggest gas reserves, followed by Iran, according to data compiled by BP Plc.

Qatar produces as much as 77 million tons a year of liquefied natural gas, making it the world’s biggest exporter of the fuel chilled for shipment by sea. A government moratorium on further development of the North Field has prevented Qatar from increasing LNG exports since it started operating its 14th and final gas liquefaction plant in 2011.

Wintershall, based in Kassel, Germany, signed a contract with Qatar to explore block 4N in 2008, according to a statement distributed today. Mitsui bought a 20 percent stake in the project two years later.

Other companies exploring for gas in separate blocks off Qatar include Royal Dutch Shell Plc, China National Petroleum Corp., Total SA and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.

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