Qatar completes $6bn oil production expansion

The gas giant and OPEC member hopes to become a major world energy player, as it pushes ahead with the development of its biggest oilfields.

Qatar, an OPEC member better known for its huge gas reserves, is pushing ahead with the development of its biggest oilfields. Maersk Oil Qatar, a joint venture between the government-owned Qatar Petroleum and Denmark's Maersk Oil, has completed a US$6 billion (Dh22.03bn) expansion of production facilities at the Al Shaheen oilfield in the Gulf, about 90km north of Doha.

The partners are expected to complete the testing of the 15 new production platforms by the end of this month. "We are very pleased to have reached this important milestone within the project, safely and on schedule," said Sheikh Faisal Al Thani, the acting managing director of the joint venture. "We are now able to focus on optimising production from the Al Shaheen field, supporting Qatar in its vision to become one of the world's major energy players."

The Al Shaheen field, which is Qatar's largest offshore oil deposit with at least 780 million barrels of reserves, was deemed commercially unviable when it was discovered in the mid-1970s. It was passed over for development until 1992 because the crude was held in tiny pores in thin rock layers. Maersk used high-precision horizontal drilling to increase contact between the oil-bearing rocks and its well bores, in 2008 drilling the world's longest bore.

The horizontal section of the well measured 12.3km, beating the record set 20 years earlier by an exploratory well off Russia's Kola Peninsula. "When we contracted Maersk Oil for the challenging reservoirs in the Al Shaheen field, where other oil majors had given up, we were not fully aware of Maersk Oil's capabilities, but we trusted their entrepreneurship. Our decision proved right," Saad al Kaabi, the Qatar Petroleum director for oil and gas ventures, said at the time.

The Al Shaheen field produces 300,000 barrels per day (bpd), up from 240,000 bpd in 2006. The expansion is aimed at increasing output capacity to 525,000 bpd.