Qatar will withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), from Jan 1, 2019, the Gulf nation’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi announced on Monday. While it is the smallest oil producing nation, Qatar is the largest exporter of Liquified Natural Gas.
The decision to quit the bloc of 15 oil-producing countries that account for a significant percentage of the world’s oil production was confirmed by Qatar Petroleum, the country’s state oil company.
H.E. Al-Kaabi: the withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tons per year to 110 million tons in the coming years.
— Qatar Petroleum (@qatarpetroleum) December 3, 2018
Speaking at a news conference in Doha, al-Kaabi said: “The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes per year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years.”
Qatar is the first Gulf country to leave the bloc of oil-producing countries.
Qatar’s Al-Kaabi also said the decision was not linked to the 18-month political and economic boycott of Doha.
Since June 2017, OPEC kingpin Saudi Arabia – along with three other Arab states – has cut trade and transport ties with Qatar, accusing the country of supporting terrorism and their regional rival, Iran. Qatar denies the claims, saying the boycott hampers its national sovereignty.
“A lot of people will politicise it,” Al-Kaabi said. “I assure you this purely was a decision on what’s right for Qatar long term. It’s a strategy decision.” “We will make a big splash in the oil and gas business soon,” he said.
He said Qatar Petroleum planned to raise its production capability from 4.8 million barrels oil equivalent per day to 6.5 million barrels in the next decade. Doha also plans to build the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East.
Al Jazeera correspondent Charlotte Bellis said that Qatar made the decision just days ahead of a December 6 OPEC meeting.
OPEC and non-OPEC members are due to meet in Vienna, Austria on Thursday, with the aim of reaching an accord over possible output cuts.
Oil prices have fallen more than 25% since climbing to a four-year peak in early October. International benchmark Brent crude was trading at $62.25 a barrel at around 6:40 a.m. London time, up around 4.7 percent.
(with inputs from agencies)