Muscat: Oman's third liquefied natural gas (LNG) train was commissioned on Saturday.

The $700 million train, owned by the Qalhat LNG Company, is expected to produce 3.3 million tonnes of LNG annually.

Sayyid Shabib Bin Taimour Al Said, Sultan Qaboos bin Said's adviser on environmental affairs, presided over the official inauguration at Qalhat in Sur Wilayat, about 350 kilometres from Muscat.

Sayyid Shabib told the Oman News Agency that the third LNG train was vital to enhancing the Omani economy and would contribute more effectively to diversifying sources of income.

"The benefits of this project would be enjoyed by citizens throughout the country," he said.

Shaikh Al Fadhal Bin Mohammad Al Harthy, undersecretary for developmental affairs in the Ministry of National Economy and chairman of Qalhat LNG, said the LNG projects are the Sultanate's main ventures intended to reduce reliance on oil.

He also reiterated that the Omani gas was free from sulphates.

He said that the LNG industry's contribution to GDP increased during the sixth five-year plan (2001-2005) by 36.8 per cent, hitting 625.6 million Omani riyals in 2005, thus attaining growth in its ratio of GDP of 5.4 per cent.

He said that when the Qalhat LNG project is operating in full swing, the LNG industry's contribution to GDP will increase from 4.5 per cent in 2004 to 9.2 per cent in 2010.

Revenue from LNG exports last year rose to 873 million riyals, thus increasing government income from LNG by 400 million riyals.

In 2003, the Omani government commenced construction of the third Qalhat LNG train and Qalhat LNG Company was set up accordingly.

The government owns 55.84 per cent of its shares, while Oman LNG Co. owns 36.8 per cent, and Spanish Union Venosa Gas 7.36 per cent.