RPT-UPDATE 1-Qatar's RasGas starts LNG output from new facility

Wed Feb 24, 2010 2:54pm GMT

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*LNG production starts from 7.8 mln T RasGas train 7

*Takes RasGas annual LNG capacity to 36.3 mln T

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DOHA, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Qatar's RasGas has started output of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from a giant new production facility, the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

RasGas is one of two LNG producers in Qatar, the world's largest LNG exporter and holder of the world's third-largest gas reserves. The tiny Gulf Arab state expects increased LNG output to help its economy grow 16 percent in 2010, outpacing its oil export dependent neighbours.

RasGas train 7 has capacity to chill enough natural gas to produce 7.8 million tonnes per year (tpy) of LNG for export on specially designed tankers. Qatar started three equally large facilities last year. The trains are the largest in the world.

The gas supply to each of the giant plants for one day alone is enough to supply 22,000 homes for a year, a RasGas official said last month.

"Train 7 is a clear demonstration of RasGas' confidence and ambition," Hamad al-Mohannadi, managing director of RasGas, said in the statement. "These mega facilities are the embodiment of a bold investment and the culmination of years of technological development and preparation."

The new facility would take RasGas's output capacity to 36.3 million tpy, RasGas said in the statement.

Exxon Mobil (XOM.N) owns 30 percent of the plant, while state run energy giant Qatar Petroleum owns the rest.

Qatar's other producer of LNG is Qatargas, which expects to start two more LNG trains of equal size this year.

When those trains start up, Qatar would have reached its target annual capacity of 77 million tonnes of LNG and end a massive expansion plan that has seen it become the top LNG exporter after shipping its first cargo just 14 years ago.

Qatar produces the gas from the North Field, the largest pure gas reserve in the world.

The country has no further plans to boost output from the North Field until a study into how the reserve is coping with such a fast increase in output.

(Reporting by Simon Webb in Tokyo and Regan Doherty in Doha; Editing by Osamu Tsukimori and Keiron Henderson)

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