Qatar plans more drilling to expand oil production at its largest field

QatarEnergy on Jan. 31 announced $6.2 billion in contract awards for the third phase of development at its offshore Al-Shaheen oil field, the country’s biggest, which will increase production by about 100,000 b/d.The third phase is expected to see first oil in 2027 with a total of 500 million barrels of crude developed over five years, QatarEnergy said in a statement.

North Oil Co., a joint venture between QatarEnergy, with a 70% interest, and TotalEnergies, took over the field’s operation in July 2017. Al-Shaheen is located 80 km offshore Qatar and started commercial production in 1994. By 2007, production was and remains at about 300,000 b/d.Qatar will produce 580,000 b/d of crude on average for the first quarter this year, according to estimates by S&P Global Commodity Insights. The small Persian Gulf sheikhdom quit OPEC in January 2019 after 57 years as a member on the grounds that it wanted to concentrate on building its position as a leading LNG exporter.

The 17% oil capacity expansion comes one day after Saudi state-run energy giant Aramco said Jan. 30 that it would halt work on expanding its crude production capacity to 13 million b/d, making an strategic about-turn after years of stressing the need to continue investing upstream to meet future oil demand. It pumped 8.95 million b/d of crude in December, according to the latest survey from Platts, part of S&P Global.Qatar’s expansion includes drilling more than 200 wells and installing a new centralized process complex, nine remote wellhead platforms and associated pipelines, it said.

Al-Shaheen accounts for about half of Qatar’s total crude production, Qatar Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi said in the statement. The expansion will show “the true potential of Qatar’s hydrocarbon resources,” he said.Al-Shaheen crude has 2.4% sulfur and an API gravity of 28, according to the Platts periodic table of oil. The crude is a medium sour type, competing with grades such as Arab Medium from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait Export Crude and Thunder Horse from the US.

Al-Shaheen is a giant cretaceous shallow oil and gas field overlying the supergiant North Field gas field, S&P Global said in a Jan. 31 report. “It demonstrates the benefits of technology, as was considered to be sub-commercial prior to the advent of horizontal drilling,” it said.It appears to extend north into Iran, where it is known as the Dariyan structure or Pars South “oil layer,” it said. This field is being developed with at least one well testing at 7,000 b/d, according to the report.

The Maersk license ended in 2017, and invitations to take over were extended to major oil producers because Qatar wanted to raise production at the field to 500,000 b/d, according to the report.It got its name, also known as Falcon, when Maersk Oil became the operator in July 1992. Al-Shaheen typically trades at a premium to Dubai cargo.