US giant ExxonMobil has picked up a sizeable stake in Qatar’s huge North Field East (NFE) liquified natural gas scheme, the world’s largest LNG expansion project.

ExxonMobil said on Tuesday that it has signed “an agreement to further develop Qatar’s NFE project, which will expand Qatar’s annual LNG capacity from 77 million tonnes to 110 million tonnes by 2026”.

Under the terms of the agreement, QatarEnergy and ExxonMobil will become partners in a new joint venture company, in which the Qatari player will hold a 75% interest with ExxonMobil holding the remaining 25%, it said.

The joint venture will own 25% of the entire NFE project, including four LNG trains with a combined nameplate capacity of 32 million tonnes per annum.

ExxonMobil noted that, with its participation, Qatar’s LNG volumes are expected to increase from 52 million to 60 million tpa.

ExxonMobil chief executive Darren Woods said the company is “collaborating with QatarEnergy on NFE to accelerate the production of secure, affordable and cleaner energy (the) world needs”.

“ExxonMobil has a long history of working in Qatar, responsibly producing energy, and we look forward to continuing our relationship for the benefit of all of our stakeholders,” he added.

Multiple awards

QatarEnergy has announced the award of multiple stakes in the NFE expansion scheme, with ExxonMobil the fourth partner to join the project, with ConocoPhillips, TotalEnergies and Eni already on board.

State-owned QatarEnergy still holds a majority stake in the $28.75 billion NFE project, which is expected to start production by early 2026.

QatarEnergy recently said more partners are expected to join NFE, with announcements to be made in due course.

While Western companies have been previously involved with North Field projects, Asian consumer nations including China are seen as crucial to Qatar’s strategy.

State-owned Chinese players including China National Petroleum Corporation and Sinopec are reportedly among those vying for additional stakes in Qatar’s NFE project, Reuters recently reported.

QatarEnergy had earlier launched a competitive bidding process in 2019 to select international partners for the NFE LNG project, which includes four LNG mega-trains each with a capacity of 8 million tpa.

The upstream part of the project will develop the south-eastern area of the field via eight platforms, 80 wells and gas pipelines to the onshore plant.

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