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 and Mitsui plan to develop the reservoir in a 544 square-kilometre area called block 4N off the Gulf state's northern coast, the companies said yesterday at a news conference in the Qatari capital.
Qatar's North Field, shared with neighbouring 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.
Qatar produces as much as 77 million tonnes 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 signed a contract with Qatar to explore block 4N in 2008. Mitsui bought a 20 per cent stake in the project two years later. Other companies exploring in separate blocks off Qatar include Royal Dutch Shell, China National Petroleum, Total and JX Nippon Oil & Gas Exploration Corp.