By Ron Bousso, Marwa Rashad and Sabrina Valle
LONDON, Oct 5 (Reuters) - Qatar will bring on board Shell and Exxon Mobil as partners in the second phase of the Gulf country's giant liquefied natural gas (LNG) expansion, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters.
The North Field South (NFS) expansion is part of Qatar's ambitious drive to consolidate its position as the world's top LNG exporter, with demand for the fuel growing as Europe scrambles to substitute the Russian pipeline gas that made up almost 40% of the continent's imports.
The two-phase North Field expansion plan includes six LNG trains that will ramp up its liquefaction capacity from 77 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) to 126 mtpa by 2027.
The first North Field East (NFE) phase is expected to add 33 mtpa while the NFS phase will add 16 mtpa.
State-owned QatarEnergy earlier this year signed deals for stakes in the NFE phase with TotalEnergies, Shell , Exxon, ConocoPhillips and Italy's Eni , and last month named TotalEnergies as the first partner in the NFS project. The French company said it will invest around $1.5 billion.
Shell and Exxon are also expected to be named as NFS partners in the coming weeks, the sources said.
On Wednesday, Qatar's minister for energy and QatarEnergy Chief Executive Saad al-Kaabi told the Energy Intelligence Forum in London that three partners would enter the NFS project, adding that they were also part of the group participating in the NFE expansion.
A Shell spokesperson said: "QatarEnergy runs the process for developing North Field South...and will make any related announcements."
Exxon declined to comment. QatarEnergy and the government's media office did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Exxon, Shell, TotalEnergies and their peers are racing to grow their LNG supplies with natural gas expected to play a central role in global efforts to reduce greenhouse emissions.
Al-Kaabi said his company would become the world's largest trader of LNG over the next 5-10 years, moving ahead of Shell and TotalEnergies. (Reporting by Ron Bousso and Marwa Rashad in London and Sabrina Valle in Houston; Editing by Veronica Brown and Kirsten Donovan)