QatarEnergy Taps Eni, ConocoPhillips To Join TotalEnergies on North Field East Expansion

Eni and ConocoPhillips will join TotalEnergies as international partners with QatarEnergy on the North Field East Expansion, the world’s single largest LNG project ever.

LNG shipping vessels line up in Qatar.

Update 21 June—Adds details of ExxonMobil joining as a partner

QatarEnergy has chosen Italy’s Eni, US major ConocoPhillips, and supermajor ExxonMobil as its newest strategic partners in the North Field East Expansion (NFE), joining France’s TotalEnergies on a growing roster of international players that will develop the LNG industry’s largest project to date.

For Eni, NFE will be the its first foray into Qatar’s upstream sector, while ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies share long histories in the country's LNG industry.

ExxonMobil is by far Qatar's most experienced long-time partner, participating in 12 of the 14 LNG trains producing for the RasGas and Qatargas joint ventures (JVs) and reaching down the value stream into shipping, receiving terminals, and Qatar’s largest condensate refinery.

ExxonMobil is also the only foreign participant in Qatar’s domestic gas projects Al Khaleej Gas and Barzan Gas, according to ExxonMobil’s website.

ConocoPhillips holds 30% of the Qatargas 3 JV, a project with facilities integrated with Qatargas 4 (30% Shell) to produce natural gas, petroleum gas, and gas condensate from the North Field. The project includes a 7.8 gross mpta LNG facility which shipped its first product in 2010, according to ConocoPhillips.

Announcements of QatarEnergy’s NFE partner picks and CEO-level signing ceremonies in Doha have come in rapid-fire succession in the week since Qatar revealed TotalEnergies as its first partner on 12 June. Its choice of Eni followed on 19 June, ConocoPhillips on 20 June, and the latest, ExxonMobil, on 21 June.

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ConocoPhillips’ current Qatar operations and location of North Field and the Ras Laffan LNG facility.

TotalEnergies has been active in Qatar since 1936. In LNG it has an interest in trains 1,2, and 3 of Qatargas 1 (10%) with a capacity of 10 mtpa; also train 5 of Qatargas 2 (16.7%) with a capacity of 8 mpta, according to the company’s website.

Six companies had submitted competitive bids in May 2021 to participate in NFE including those already announced as the winners , plus Shell with its own long track records in Qatar’s LNG industry, and Chevron which had reportedly offered Qatar entry into some of its prize assets.

The $28.75-billion NFE is designed to raise Qatar’s LNG output 64% by 2027, though Qatar’s Energy Minister and CEO of Qatar Energy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi is on record as saying that even higher future output targets are under discussion.

Like TotalEnergies, Eni, ConocoPhillips, and ExxonMobil will each hold a 25% interest in separate, new JV companies in which QatarEnergy holds 75% in each. Each JV in turn will own 25% of the entire NFE project, including the four 8-mtpa trains that represent an overall boost in nameplate capacity of 32 mtpa of LNG.

The new trains will drive production to110 mtpa during Phase 1, a 43% jump from the current 77 mtpa. Two more trains will be added during Phase 2 (known as the North Field South development) to reach a targeted production of 126 mtpa by 2027, according to QatarEnergy’s current plan.

Al-Kaabi said Eni’s 25% interest in its JV represents a 3.12% stake in the overall expansion project, which is expected to deliver its first gas in early 2026. Conoco’s interest is also 3.12% while TotalEnergies and ExxonMobil will each hold equal 6.5% interests, he said.

QatarEnergy has emphasized that it has sufficient capital to self-finance the NFE but it has chosen to strategically leverage its asset by offering international players a chance to participate in partnerships that will help Qatar realize its wider ambition to expand globally and build up its international portfolio.

Eni’s first-time involvement in Qatari LNG expands its Middle East presence and gives it access to a leading world LNG producer with gas reserves that rank among the world’s largest, the company said in a news release.

Qatar Energy and Eni are partners already in oil and gas projects in Oman, Mexico, Morocco, Mozambique, and Kenya.

Eni CEO Claudio Descalzi called the agreement “a significant milestone for Eni and fits our objective to diversify into cleaner and more reliable energy sources,” a poignant comment considering that Italy is among the European countries currently floating the idea of returning to coal as it seeks to distance itself from Russian gas imports.

During Monday's signing ceremony, ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance also cited the “increasingly important role” that LNG is playing in “energy security and the global energy transition.” ExxonMobil CEO Darren Woods commented similarly on Tuesday, saying the NFE would “accelerate the production of secure, affordable and cleaner energy.”

Al-Kaabi has said he expects half of the output from the NFE project to be Europe-bound with the other half to be transported to Asian buyers.

The North Field is the world’s largest nonassociated gas field. Qatar shares the field with Iran, which calls its share South Pars.