Middle East producer QatarEnergy has firmed up 17 pre-reserved LNG newbuilding slots worth QAR 14.2bn ($3.9bn) with South Korean shipbuilder HD Hyundai Heavy Industries as it kicks off Phase 2 of its huge LNG carrier acquisition project.

Announcing the slot agreements today, QatarEnergy said the deal marks the start of the second phase of QatarEnergy’s LNG ship acquisition program.

The company said that together with the 60 ships that were contracted by shipowners for QatarEnergy in the first phase of the programme at a South Korean and a Chinese yard this agreement brings the total number of confirmed new LNG vessels to be delivered to QatarEnergy and its affiliates to 77, with more to follow.

Insiders have previously detailed contracts on 66 vessels under Phase 1 of this project.

QatarEnergy said the LNG newbuildings will support its expanding LNG production capacity from the North Field LNG expansion and Golden Pass LNG export projects as well as its long-term fleet replacement requirements.

The Doha-headquartered LNG giant pre-reserved up to 151 LNG carrier newbuilding slots at four shipyards for the massive ship aquisition project.

TradeWinds reported on Monday that a deal with a single Korean shipyard was imminent as QatarEnergy started to move on Phase 2 of its project.

Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs and president and chief executive of QatarEnergy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi visited Seoul to ink the agreement alongside HD Korea Shipbuilding & Offshore Engineering (KSOE) vice chairman and CEO Ka Sam-hyun.

Al-Kaabi said: “This is another milestone in our long-term relationship with HD Hyundai Heavy Industries and the Korean shipbuilding industry in general, which is built on the strong and strategic partnership between the State of Qatar and the Republic of Korea.”

“These 17 LNG carriers will be built by HD Hyundai Heavy Industries to the highest technical and environmental standards and specifications,” he said, adding that the ships are designed to achieve optimal fuel efficiency and a significant reduction in carbon emissions.

Ka said the shipyard is “very proud of taking part in the world’s largest LNG newbuilding project".

“We are fully committed to contributing to this project with the most advanced technology and expertise to ensure safer, more efficient, and reliable transportation of LNG from Qatar to all over the world,” he said.

QatarEnergy said its shipbuilding program is the largest of its kind in the history of the LNG industry and will play a pivotal role in meeting its future shipping requirements as it expands Qatar’s LNG production capacity.