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While Qatar sits on a pool of natural gas, Britain’s reserves are running dry. Without transport to London, Qatar’s resources are of no use to either country. A pipeline would be geographically absurd. Until recently, liquefying and shipping the gas seemed financially absurd. Enter Philip Stopford of White & Case, who counseled Qatar Petroleum and ExxonMobil Corp., sponsors of the $11 billion financing of the Qatargas II liquefied natural gas project. To reach London, Qatari gas needs to pass through a long supply chain. First it must be captured in offshore platforms. Then it is purified and chilled to 162 degrees Celsius, when it condenses to one six-hundredth of its gaseous volume. Next it is stored in refrigerated tanks and shipped in refrigerated tankers. Finally, at Milford Haven in Wales, the LNG is regasified and plugged into the national gas pipeline grid. In the past, energy companies built massive liquefying plants, only to run into bottlenecks in shipping or regasification. Qatargas II’s business innovation was to incorporate every step of the supply chain into the project itself; the legal challenge was to finance each stage of the process independently, while providing lenders assurances that no stage of the project would fail. LNG has been called “the movable pipeline.” In like fashion, Stopford might be called “the movable lawyer.” He grew up as a Royal Navy brat at the dusk of empire, with stops in Malta, Singapore and Gibraltar. In the late 1970s Stopford attended the University of Virginia School of Law on a Harkness Fellowship, which is a sort of Rhodes Scholarship in reverse. As part of the program, Stopford promised to return to Britain and work to improve transatlantic relations. But his return home would be circuitous. Joining White & Case soon after law school, Stopford spent the 1980s in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and, mostly, in the gas-rich nation of Indonesia. There, Stopford learned project finance in the country that pioneered LNG and (until it is surpassed by Qatar) remains the world leader. In the 1990s, Stopford spearheaded his firm’s European expansion, founding White & Case’s German practice in 1991. He returned to London in 1993, just as The Law Society of England and Wales allowed multinational practice, and in the next 11 years helped to expand White & Case’s London office from 10 lawyers to more than 200. While in London, Stopford assisted in negotiating White & Case’s merger with Germany’s Feddersen Laule Ewerwahn Scherzberg Finkelnburg Clemm. Last year, at age 50, Stopford joined White & Case’s firmwide management committee. It had taken a while, but Stopford was finally beginning to fulfill the obligation of his Harkness Fellowship — in style. Read the full dealmaker profile and the complete corporate scorecard by subscribing to The American Lawyer.

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