By Thomas Pfeiffer and Daniel Fineren
Gas giant hoping to start train 6 operations by June of this year.
The first cargo from Qatargas train six should be loaded by November, with the first shipment from train seven possible by year end, a Qatargas shipping executive said on Tuesday.
Speaking to Reuters, Ahmed al Klulaifi, commercial and shipping chief operating officer at the state run LNG giant, said: "We are in the process of starting up train six at Qatargas 3 and at later stage we will start up train seven of Qatargas 4."
Speaking at the sidelines of an LNG conference in Algeria, he added: "Hopefully the train six will be producing this year, maybe the first cargo is in October or November, maybe two-three months after we will see the first cargo from train seven."
He said: "So that will happen hopefully before end of year. If not, (then) January or February."
Qatargas said in January it hoped to start up operations at the sixth production facility, known as a train, in June 2010 and, with train seven following in September.
But it takes several weeks to start up and then cool the huge facilities, which include miles of piping, before tankers can be loaded with the liquefied gas for export.
With capacity to chill enough natural gas to produce 7.8 million tonnes of LNG per year for export the trains are the largest in the world.
Train six is a joint venture between Qatar Petroleum, US base ConocoPhillips and Japan's Mitsui, while train seven is being developed with Royal Dutch Shell.
Demand for imported gas has waned in the United States and Europe over the past year, but Klulaifi said other buyers on Qatar's side of the Suez Canal, the key transit route for Qatari tankers heading to west, were making up for it.
He said: "We are sold out. Most of the trains (output) are going to east of Suez and partially to west of Suez." He added that growing appetite for Qatar's biggest export in emerging markets in Asia and beyond should mop up any available fuel.
He said: "What we see for this year and the future is that there will be a new market of totally new countries that will come to LNG."
He also pointed to rising demand for gas to fire power plants around the world.
Despite the boom in US shale gas output, Qatargas has not written off the North American market and has been asked to help build new terminals there, he said.
Qatar Petroleum already has a stake in Golden Pass on the US east coast which is due online in late 2010.
Analysis of AIS Live ship tracking data on Reuters over the last few days showed more than 70 LNG tankers either heading to import terminals in Asia or already docked there.
Japan, which has long been the world's biggest LNG buyer, is currently attracting most cargoes, with the world's second biggest LNG consumer South Korea not far behind and several tankerloads heading for market newcomers China and India.
In contrast, only about 50 LNG tankers were spotted heading for markets across the Americas or Europe early this week, although the tracker does not register vessels in the middle of the ocean.
The head of commercial operations at Qatar's two LNG exporting groups said total Qatari LNG exports could reach 450-500 cargoes in 2010, with higher sales in 2011. (Reuters)oil news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.