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Tue 26 Jun 2007 12:35 AM

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Dolphin produces first Qatar gas

Dolphin Energy produces first gas from Qatar's North Field, will ramp up UAE exports.

Dolphin Energy has produced its first gas in Qatar and is testing process plants before ramping up exports to the United Arab Emirates, Dolphin said in a statement on Monday.

"The company has produced the first gas from its wells in Qatar's North Field," Dolphin said. "The gas is currently being used in testing all aspects of the plant."

Dolphin has said previously it aimed to export 2 billion cubic feet per day to the UAE by the end of the year. The exports will boost gas available for domestic sales in the UAE, where supplies are short, by nearly 50 % from last year's level.

The UAE sits on the world's fifth-largest gas reserves but has not developed them quickly enough to meet rising gas demand as its economy expands. Record oil revenues have fuelled the growth.

The $3.5 billion Dolphin project was dragged into a territorial dispute between Saudi Arabia and the UAE last July, when the Saudis told minority partners France's Total and U.S. Occidental Petroleum that it had reservations over the subsea pipeline route.

The project's development was unaffected. The start-up at the gas processing plant is a few weeks late, as Dolphin previously scheduled the full commercial launch in the first week of June.

Mubadala Development Co., run by the government of the UAE's Abu Dhabi, owns 51 % of Dolphin while Total and Occidental each have a 24.5 % stake.

Gas demand is rising so quickly in the UAE that the Dolphin imports were only likely to meet needs for the next two or three years, industry sources said last week.

Dolphin is in talks with Qatar to increase the flow of gas to the pipeline's maximum capacity of 3.5 billion cubic feet per day. But Qatar has called a moratorium on new projects from its giant North Field, as it studies the effect of rapid development on the largest reservoir of pure gas in the world.

Qatar has become the world's largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), gas chilled to liquid for export on tankers.

The 364 km pipeline for the gas exports to the UAE was completed last year. Dolphin began using it in March to bring 400 million cubic feet per day of gas processed by state-owned Qatar Petroleum to the emirate of Dubai. Dubai will be taking between 600 million and 800 million cubic feet per day once full exports begin, industry sources said.

The Dolphin project has a link to Oman. That pipeline was the first to carry gas across borders in the Gulf Arab region when Oman began pumping to the UAE in 2004.

The direction of the UAE-Oman pipeline will be reversed next year, when Oman will begin receiving gas from Qatar via the UAE to feed its rising demand.

The Dolphin gas plant in Ras Laffan, Qatar, will have four gas processing trains with capacity of 500 million cubic feet per day each.

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