Yemen will inaugurate its first liquefied natural gas plant next month and begin exporting in August with the first shipment destined for South Korea, the oil minister said.

The plant at Balhaf on the south coast is ready “for its official inauguration on June 16, and the export of its first shipment of gas to South Korea will come eight weeks later,” Oil Minister Amir Salem al-Aydarus said.

In addition to South Korea, LNG from Yemen will also be exported to Europe and north America, the minister said in a statement posted online on the defence ministry’s website, 26Sep.net.

Yemen has already taken delivery of two of four LNG tankers on order, the statement said, quoting Aydarus as saying the remaining two ships will be delivered “in the coming days.”

A tanker carrying the first shipment of 120,000 cubic metres (more than four million cubic feet) of LNG will sail for South Korea in August.

The maiden cargo of gas will mark the culmination of a project launched in October 2005 at a total cost of four billion dollars, making it the largest ever project in the country’s history.

The LNG project is vital to the economic future of Yemen, where oil revenues currently make up 70 percent of state revenue.

When a second liquefying unit becomes operational towards the end of the year Yemen will be able to export 6.7 million tonnes of gas annually — equivalent to 180,000 barrels of oil per day (bpd).

It will remain a small player on the LNG market nevertheless, with reserves of 259 billion cubic metres.

Yemen is one of the poorest countries on Earth despite its proximity to oil powerhouse Saudi Arabia.

Its own oil exports are tiny compared with its northern neighbour. Last year it produced less than 300,000 bpd of crude oil, and production is decreasing by five to six percent a year.

Deputy Prime Minister for Economic Affairs Abdulkarim Ismail al-Arhabi told AFP in March that he expects the country’s modest oil reserves to be exhausted by 2020.

“Gas will make up for the decrease in oil production,” he said.

(AFP & Zawya)