Shell's gas production is hit by a ten month delay in middle eastern project

ROYAL Dutch Shell said yesterday it had delayed one of its largest schemes by almost a year, with the start-up for the $8bn (&pound;4.8bn) Qatargas 4 liquefied natural gas project now planned for late 2010.<br /><br />The delay, which a Shell spokeswoman said was due to contractors struggling to keep up with the pace of developments in Qatar&rsquo;s gas industry, will make it harder for the Anglo-Dutch oil major to turn around a long run of falling production.<br /><br />&ldquo;We had been planning for a start-up in early 2010 but now we expect that to come in late 2010,&rdquo; the spokeswoman said, adding the slippage represented a delay of 10 months.<br /><br />She declined to say when first cargoes would load but a statement from the firm said ramp-up of the project could continue into 2011, raising the prospect the facility may not be in a position to load ships until then.<br /><br />One dealer said they were not surprised by the delay, as Shell had flagged problems to analysts in recent weeks. Further delays are possible, with industry analysts at Waterborne LNG saying they expect first cargoes in mid 2011.