His Excellency Abdullah Bin Hamad Al Attiyah, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Energy and Industry and Chairman of Qatargas, announced major agreements for the Qatar Helium 2 Project, which will make Qatar the world's second largest helium producer and operator of the world's largest helium production facility.
H.E. Al Attiyah's announcement was made at a ceremony held at the Ritz Carlton Doha. This ceremony was also attended by His Excellency Yousuf Hussain Kamal, Minister of Economy and Finance and Chairman of RasGas Company Limited (RasGas); Mr. Hamad Rashid Al Mohannadi, Managing Director-CEO of RasGas; and Mr. Faisal Al-Suwaidi, CEO of Qatargas Operating Company Limited, as well as a number of board members and other senior officials from RasGas and Qatargas, Air Liquide and Chiyoda Al Mana Engineering Company Limited.
Of the major agreements, one is an Engineering, Procurement and Construction (EPC) contract with Air Liquide for the world's largest liquefier helium refining unit to purify and liquefy crude helium gas recovered from Qatar's North Field.
There are also sales and purchase agreements with Air Liquide for 50 percent of the production; with Linde Gases, a division of The Linde Group, for 30 percent of the production; and with Iwatani Corporation for 20 percent of the production.
Chiyoda Al Mana Engineering Company Limited will also play an important role as the EPC management services provider responsible for constructing the extraction units that will feed the Helium Recovery Unit to be built by Air Liquide.
Helium is essential to a number of applications such as MRI scanners for the medical profession; in industrial applications for electronics, fiber optics, photo voltaics, leak detection and welding; and in the retail and entertainment industries for balloons.
H.E. Al Attiyah highlighted the project's significance for the country and stated that: "The Qatar Helium 2 project represents another important milestone under the vision of His Highness the Emir, Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al Thani, to ensure the optimal utilisation of Qatar's enormous resources by creating development opportunities for the welfare and prosperity of Qatar, and for future generations."
The Qatar Helium 2 Project is a joint venture owned by Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Limited 2 (Qatargas 2), Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Limited 3 (Qatargas 3), Qatar Liquefied Gas Company Limited 4 (Qatargas 4) and Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Company Limited (3). It will be managed and operated by RasGas Company Limited.
The Project is the second helium project to be built in Qatar. The first helium facility in Qatar came onstream in 2005 with a capacity of 700 million cubic feet per year. Production from the Qatar Helium 2 Project is targeted for early 2013. When completed, it will be the largest such facility in the world.
The project will recover the crude helium by-product from the joint venture partners. Helium sales from the Qatar Helium 2 Project are expected to reach 1.3 billion cubic feet per year.
H.E. Al Attiyah added: "Helium is the second most abundant element in the universe, but rarely is it found in quantities large enough to justify economic extraction. Qatar, however, is one of the few exceptions and is well on its way to becoming the second largest helium producer in the world. Since 2000, world demand for helium has increased by around 20 percent - the bulk of this increasing demand can be met from Qatar's North Field for many years."
Worldwide demand for helium currently stands at around 6 billion cubic feet per year, a figure expected to increase by some 30 percent by 2020. Qatar's North Field reservoir contains the largest proven helium reserves in the world. This will enable Qatar to meet the anticipated growth in world demand for years to come.