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South Pars/North Dome Field
South Pars/North Dome Gas-Condensate field
Location of South Pars/North Dome Field
LocationPersian Gulf
Coordinates26°37′08.85″N 52°04′04.67″E / 26.6191250°N 52.0679639°E / 26.6191250; 52.0679639Coordinates: 26°37′08.85″N 52°04′04.67″E / 26.6191250°N 52.0679639°E / 26.6191250; 52.0679639
Qatar Petroleum
Total S.A.
Field history
Start of production1989
Peak of production (gas)60,000 million cubic feet per day (1,700×10^6 m3/d)
Estimated gas in place1,800,000×10^9 cu ft (51,000×10^9 m3)
Recoverable gas1,260,000×10^9 cu ft (36,000×10^9 m3)
Producing formationsKangan (Triassic)
Upper Dalan (Permian)

The South Pars/North Dome field is a natural-gas condensate field located in the Persian Gulf. It is by far the world's largest natural gas field,[1] with ownership of the field shared between Iran and Qatar.[2][3] According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), the field holds an estimated 1,800 trillion cubic feet (51 trillion cubic metres) of in-situ natural gas and some 50 billion barrels (7.9 billion cubic metres) of natural gas condensates.[4] On the list of natural gas fields it has almost as much recoverable reserves as all the other fields combined. It has significant geostrategic influence.[5]

This gas field covers an area of 9,700 square kilometres (3,700 sq mi), of which 3,700 square kilometres (1,400 sq mi) (South Pars) is in Iranian territorial waters and 6,000 square kilometres (2,300 sq mi) (North Dome) is in Qatari territorial waters.[6]

Field geology

The field is 3,000 metres (9,800 ft) below the seabed at a water depth of 65 metres (213 ft),[7] and consists of two independent gas-bearing formations: Kangan (Triassic) and Upper Dalan (Permian). Each formation is divided into two different reservoir layers, separated by impermeable barriers. The field consists of four independent reservoir layers K1, K2, K3, and K4.[8]

The K1 and K3 units are mainly composed of dolomites and anhydrites, while K2 and K4, which constitute major gas reservoirs, comprise limestone and dolomite. A massive anhydrite (the Nar member) separates the K4 from the underlying K5 unit which has poor reservoir qualities.[9] The gross pay zone in the South Pars field is approximately 450 m thick, extending from depths of approximately 2750 to 3200 m. Reservoir strata dip gently to the NE. The average thickness of the reservoir units declines from South Pars (some 450 metres (1,480 ft)) to North field (385 metres (1,263 ft)). As in other reservoir structures in neighboring areas, the reservoir in the Qatar Arch is cut by a set of NNW-SSE trending faults.[9] Diagenesis has a major effect on reservoir quality of the field.[10]

The field is a part of the N-trending Qatar Arch structural feature that is bounded by the Zagros fold and thrust belt to the north and northeast.[11]

In the field, gas accumulation is mostly limited to the Permian–Triassic stratigraphic units. These units known as the Kangan–Dalan Formations constitute very extensive natural gas reservoirs in the field and Persian Gulf area, which composed of carbonate–evaporite series also known as the Khuff Formation.[11]

Permian–Early Triassic has been divided into Faraghan (Early Permian), Dalan (Late Permian) and Kangan (Early Triassic) Formations.[11]


South Pars/North Dome Field
South Pars/North Dome Field

According to International Energy Agency (IEA), the combined structure is the world's largest gas field.[1]

In-place volumes are estimated to be around 1,800 trillion cubic feet (51 trillion cubic metres) gas in place and some 50 billion barrels (7.9 billion cubic metres) of natural gas condensate in place.[12] With in place volumes equivalent to 360 billion barrels (57 billion cubic metres) of oil[13] (310 billion boe of gas and 50 billion boe of natural gas condensate) the field is the world's biggest conventional hydrocarbon accumulation.

The field recoverable gas reserve is equivalent to some 215 billion barrels (34.2 billion cubic metres) of oil and it also holds about 16 billion barrels (2.5 billion cubic metres) of recoverable condensate corresponding of about 230 billion barrels (37 billion cubic metres) of oil equivalent recoverable hydrocarbons.

The gas recovery factor of the field is about 70%, corresponding of about 1,260 trillion cubic feet (36×10^12 m3) of total recoverable gas reserves which stands for about 19% of world recoverable gas reserves.[14]

The estimates for the Iranian section are 500 trillion cubic feet (14×10^12 m3) of natural gas in place and around 360 trillion cubic feet (10×10^12 m3) of recoverable gas which stands for 36% of Iran's total proven gas reserves and 5.6% of the world's proven gas reserves.[12]

The estimates for the Qatari section are 900 trillion cubic feet (25×10^12 m3) of recoverable gas which stands for almost 99% of Qatar's total proven gas reserves and 14% of the world's proven gas reserves.[15]

Table 1 - South Pars/North Field gas reserves

In-place gas reserve Recoverable gas reserve
cu km (km³) Trillion cu ft (ft³) cu km (km³) Trillion cu ft (ft³)
South Pars 14,000 500 10,000 360
North Dome 37,000 1300 26,000 900
Total 51,000 1800 36,000 1260

Note: 1 km³ = 1,000,000,000 m³ = 1 Billion m³ = 1 Trillion Liters

However, since the field is a common field and the reservoir is highly homogenous, the ultimate recoverable reserves of each country may vary from this technical assessment which only considers the static data and does not include rate of gas migration. So, it is better to say that the ultimate recoverable reserves of each country would be a factor of cumulative gas production by each of them.[citation needed]

The Iranian section also holds 18 billion barrels (2.9 billion cubic metres) of condensate in place of which some 9 billion barrels (1.4 billion cubic metres) are believed to be recoverable,[16] while Qatari section believed to contains some 30 billion barrels (4.8×109 m3) of condensate in place and at least some 10 billion barrels (1.6 billion cubic metres) of recoverable condensate.[17]

The field is rich in liquids and yields approximately 40 barrels (6.4 m3) of condensate per 1 million cubic feet (28×10^3 m3) of gas. It has also very high level of well productivity which in average stands for 100 million cubic feet (2.8×10^6 m3) per day per well.[18]

Reserve uncertainties

In 2005, Qatar Petroleum became worried the North Dome's reserves were being developed too quickly, which could reduce reservoir pressure and possibly damage its long-term production potential. In early 2005, the government placed a moratorium on additional development projects at the North Dome pending a study of the field's reservoirs.[19] This assessment is not expected to end until after 2009, meaning new projects are unlikely to be signed before 2010. However, this did not affect projects approved or underway before the moratorium.[20]

The 2005 moratorium by Qatar and the subsequent extension of that raised some questions about the actual proven reserves in Qatari side of the field. There was some news in 2006 that ConocoPhillips drilled unexpectedly dry holes in the North Field and this event was at least a partial catalyst for a revamped perspective on the North field structure and potential.[21] Further supporting evidence for skepticism about the real scale of Qatari's reserves came from the 2008 exploration round in Qatar to target exploration of gas in the pre-Khuff formation. Even one of the blocks is exactly located beneath the North Dome Field.[22]

On 29 October 2007, Qatargas CEO Faisal Al Suwaidi stated that the 5-year moratorium on new North Field gas development projects, imposed in 2005, could be extended to 2011 or 2012.[19] The exploration moratorium was lifted by Qatar in April 2017 with the announcement of a new gas project in the southern part of the field.[23]

South Pars development

Main articles: Assaluyeh and Foreign Direct Investment in Iran

South Pars and Iranian oil and gas infrastructures
South Pars and Iranian oil and gas infrastructures
Horizon of Persian Gulf in South Pars area
Horizon of Persian Gulf in South Pars area
South Pars onshore facilities near Asaluyeh
South Pars onshore facilities near Asaluyeh

The South Pars Field was discovered in 1990 by National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC).[11] The Pars Oil and Gas Company,[16] a subsidiary of NIOC, has jurisdiction over all South Pars-related projects. Field development has been delayed by various problems - technical (i.e., high levels of mercaptans and foul-smelling sulfur compounds), contractual issues and, recently, politics.[citation needed]

Gas production started from the field by commissioning phase 2 in December 2002 to produce 1 billion cubic feet per day (28 million cubic metres per day) of wet gas. Gas is sent to shore via pipeline, and processed at Assaluyeh.

Condensate production from South Pars is currently 200,000 barrels per day (32,000 m3/d), and by 2010, could increase to over 500,000 barrels per day (79,000 m3/d). As of December 2010, South pars gas field's production capacity stands at 75 million cubic metres (2.6 billion cubic feet) of natural gas per day.[24] Gas production at South Pars rose by nearly 30% between March 2009 and March 2010. The field's reserves are estimated at 14 trillion cubic metres (490 trillion cubic feet) of natural gas and 18 billion barrels (2.9 billion cubic metres) of natural gas condensates. Production at South Pars gas field will rise to 175 million cubic metres (6.2 billion cubic feet) per day in 2012.[citation needed]

NIOC is planning to develop the field in 24 to 30 phases, capable of producing about 25 billion cubic feet (710 million cubic metres) to 30 billion cubic feet (850 million cubic metres) of natural gas per day. Each standard phase is defined for daily production of 1 billion cubic feet (28 million cubic metres) of natural gas, 40,000 barrels (6,400 m3) of condensate, 1500 tonnes of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) and 200 tonnes of sulfur, however some phases have some different production plans.[25] Each of the phases is estimated to have an average capital spend of around US$1.5 billion, and most will be led by foreign oil firms working in partnership with local companies.[26]

Development of a South Pars phase by the Norwegian Statoil company has become infamous after extensive report of misconduct and bribery to the Horton Investments, an Iranian consultancy firm owned by Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, son of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Statoil committed to spending US$300 million to construct three production platforms and a pipeline.[27] The government of Mr Ahmadinejad, who came to power in 2005, has favoured local firms over foreign companies in the energy and other sectors.[26]

By the beginning of 2008, phases 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 have been brought to production and by the end of 2008, phases 6, 7, 8, 9 and 10 will be on stream. Phases 12, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 27 and 28 are under different development stages.

Project finance

As of December 2010, about $30 billion have been invested in South Pars gas fields' development plan.[24] It is estimated that the amount will reach over $40 billion by 2015.[24] The Ministry of Petroleum in Iran said in a revised statement in 2011 that Iran will invest some $90 billion between 2011 and 2015 ($60 billion will be allocated to the upstream sector and the rest to the downstream sector).[28]

Economic studies show with the operation of each South Pars phase, one percent is added to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), while phase 12 will add more than three percent of GDP.[29]

South Pars phases

See also: NIOC's main subsidiaries and List of Iranian companies

President Mohammad Khatami visits south Pars Gas field on January 25, 2002.
President Mohammad Khatami visits south Pars Gas field on January 25, 2002.

As at 2012, some 400 Iranian companies were taking part in the development of the South Pars gas field through supplying equipment to related projects.[30]

South Pars gas and condensate production plan

Phase General contractor 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
1 Petropars 500 750 750 750 750 750 750 750 750 750 750 750 750
2 & 3 Consortium of Total, Gazprom and Petronas 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000
4 & 5 Consortium of Eni, Petronas and NIOC 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000
6, 7 & 8 Petropars and Statoil 1000 2500 3700 3700 3700 3700 3700 3700 3700
9 & 10 Consortium of GS Group, OIEC Group[39] and IOEC 1000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000 2000
11 Petropars 1000 2000 2000
12 Petropars 1000 2000 3000 3000 3000 3000
13 Khatam-ol-Osea[32] 1000 2000 2000
14 Khatam-ol-Osea[32] 500 1000 1000
15 & 16 Khatam al-Anbia, replaced with OSOICO in 2010. 1000 2000 2000
17 & 18 Consortium of OIEC Group,[39] IDRO, and IOEC 1000 2000 2000
19 IOEC & Petropars[34] 500 1500
20 & 21 OIEC Group[39] 1000 2000
22, 23 & 24 Khatam al-Anbia[41] 1000 3000
TBD 1000 2000
Petropars 1000 2000
Total Gas Production million cu ft/d 2,000 2,500 4,750 4,750 4,750 9,250 10,450 10,450 11,450 12,450 13,450 17,950 24,950 29,450
Total Condensate Production kbbl/d 80 100 190 190 190 370 420 420 460 500 540 720 1,000 1,200

Table Sources: NIOC, Pars Oil & Gas Company, Shana and Media [16]

Development delays and criticisms

While several phases of South Pars gas field are still waiting for development and the ongoing development phases are facing delays, NIOC authorities are conducting negotiations for development of other Iranian offshore gas fields like North Pars, Kish, Golshan, Ferdows and Lavan.

Many Iranian energy analysts believe that NIOC authorities should focus on full development of South Pars field prior to conduction of any new project for development of other undeveloped Iranian offshore gas fields.

The priority of South Pars full development is not only due to its shared nature with Qatar, but also with huge capability of the field to add significant liquid production to Iranian liquid export capacity.

On 27 February 2009, one of the members of Iranian Parliaments criticized lack of attention on the importance of acceleration of South Pars field development and the field development delays.[42]

Scale and impacts of delays

By the end of 2008, Qatar's cumulative production from the field was two times higher than Iran's cumulative production from the field. Qatar produced about 20 trillion cubic feet (570 billion cubic metres) of natural gas in the period of 1997 to 2008, while Iran produced about 10 trillion cubic feet (280 billion cubic metres) of natural gas in the period of 2003 to 2008. The 2:1 ratio of Qatar's cumulative gas production from the field to Iran's is forecasted to continue at least for the short term: by the end of 2011, Qatar's total cumulative production from the field will reach 41 trillion cubic feet (1.2 trillion cubic metres) of natural gas, while Iran's will stand at 21 trillion cubic feet (590 billion cubic metres) of natural gas in the same year. The ratio is maintained mainly because Qatar's annual production is almost twice the Iranian production level.

In 2011, Qatar will reach an annual production capacity 8 trillion cubic feet (230 billion cubic metres) of natural gas per year, while in that year Iran's production capacity will reach 4 trillion cubic feet (110 billion cubic metres) per year. If Iran could implement all of its South Pars planned development projects on time, then it would reach the production capacity of 8 trillion cubic feet (230 billion cubic metres) of natural gas per year, not earlier than 2015.

The most important impact of delays and lower production in Iranian side would be migration of gas to the Qatari part and a loss of condensate yield due to decreased field pressure.

North Dome development

The North Dome, also known as North Field, was discovered in 1971,[11] with the completion of Shell's North West Dome-1 well.

With falling oil and associated gas production, and depletion of the Khuff reserves, developing the North field became imperative. In 1984 it was decided that development would occur in phases. Phase 1 involved installing production, processing, and transport facilities for 800 million cubic feet (23 million cubic metres) of natural gas per day to serve local utilities and produce 5,000 tons per day of propane, butane, gasoline, and naphtha. In 1989 a gas sweetening plant and sulfur processing unit were added. Phase one was online by early 1991. Gas from North Field phase one has been primarily used for local demand, and injection into the Dukhan field. Phase two was expected to involve selling North Field gas to its neighbors, possibly through a Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) gas grid. Phase three involved exporting to Europe and Asia. Even before the Persian Gulf War, this phase ran into trouble. To justify the investment, Qatar Petroleum (QP) needed two large-scale long-term supply contracts. Despite efforts from QP managing director Jaber al-Marri, contracts were not forthcoming. This switched emphasis to domestic outlets. In 1988, a firm of international consultants presented a plan to QP for developing domestic projects to utilize Qatari gas. Suggestions included an aluminum smelter, a ferro-alloy production plant, methanol production facilities, and expansion of petrochemical and fertilizer operations.

Qatar rapidly expanded its production and exports from North Dome Field. Here are a number of milestones:

Subsequent phases of the North field development provided feedstock to LNG plants at Ras Laffan Industrial City.

Based on the current Qatar planned projects, production of LNG from North Dome Field may reach to 23 billion cubic feet (650 million cubic metres) to 27 billion cubic feet (760 million cubic metres) per day by 2012, any further increase in the production level of the Qatari side of the field is subject to the result of the ongoing study by Qatar Petroleum which is supposed to be released in 2012.

The prospects for further growth in Qatari gas production beyond 2012 are clouded by the uncertainty created by a moratorium on new export projects, which was imposed in 2005 while the effect of existing projects on North Field reservoirs was studied.[1]

In order to monetize North Dome's vast resources of gas and liquids, Qatar has undertaken ambitious plans for establishment of the world's biggest LNG and GTL industry.

Qatar's LNG industry

Qatar has two LNG companies called Qatargas and RasGas and both are located in the Ras Laffan Industrial Port on the coast of Persian Gulf.[44]

Since 1997, Qatar has been exporting LNG from the North Field. In 2006, Qatar surpassed Indonesia as the world's largest LNG exporter. Based on the massive gas resources of the field, Qatar is developing the world biggest LNG export facilities in order to reach the capacity of 77 million metric ton per year by 2012 (see table below).[45]

Qatargas and RasGas are the two main companies responsible for Qatar's LNG projects.

Qatar's GTL industry

Oryx GTL (Sasol)

Main article: Oryx GTL

The ORYX GTL plant was commissioned in early 2007, as the first operational GTL plant in Qatar. The plant nameplate capacity is 34,000 barrels per day (5,400 m3/d), however, the plant has faced technical challenges and did not reach full capacity during the first year of operation. Modifications recommended by Sasol assist with overcoming this shortfall and production capacity was reached/ maintained from 2009 onwards. The plant uses 330 million cubic feet per day (9.3×10^6 m3/d) of natural gas from the Al Khaleej Gas project. The ORYX GTL project uses Sasol's Slurry Phase Distillate (SPD) process.[46]

Pearl GTL (Shell)

Main article: Pearl GTL

The project is under construction and will be the world's largest GTL plant which will have the capacity of 140,000 barrels per day (22,000 m3/d) of middle distillates and significant quantities of LPG and condensate. The first of two 70,000 barrels per day (11,000 m3/d) GTL trains is planned to start production in 2011. Around 1.6 billion cubic feet per day (45×10^6 m3/d) of natural gas will be supplied from the North field to the project. Shell has 100% of the equity in the integrated upstream and plant project.[47]

Table 3. North Field production plan (million cubic feet per day).[48]

Project Start Up 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011
QatarGas 1997 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860 860
QatarGas 1998 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430 430
QatarGas 2003 700 700 700 700 700 700 700 700 700
QatarGasII 2008 1700 1700 1700 1700
QatarGasII 2009 1700 1700 1700
QatarGasIII 2009 1700 1700
QatarGasIV 2009 1700
RasGas 1999 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400 1400
RasGas 2004 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000
RasGas 2005 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000
RasGas 2007 1000 1000 1000 1000 1000
RasGas 2008 1700 1700 1700 1700
RasGas 2010 1700 1700 1700
Al Khalij 2005 650 650 650 650 650 650 650
Dolphin 2007 2800 2800 2800 2800 4000
Pearl GTL 2009 1700 1700 1700
Total million cu ft/d 860 1300 2700 2700 2700 2700 3400 4400 6000 6000 9840 13240 18340 20000 23000

Table sources: QatarGas, RasGas, Qatar Petroleum and internet

See also


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  34. ^ a b c d e "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-02-24. Retrieved 2012-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
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