Qatar to quit OPEC in Jan. 2019, says its energy minister

DOHA, QATAR, DECEMBER 04, 2018

Qatar will leave the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) next month in order to focus on gas production, the Gulf state’s new Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced on Monday.

It has been a member of OPEC since 1961, and the decision to pull out after all these decades comes at a turbulent time in Gulf politics, with Doha under a boycott by former neighbouring allies, including Saudi Arabia for 18 months.

“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning,” he said at a press meet here.

Gas remains our top priority

Qatar said gas production would remain its top priority. “We don’t have great potential (in oil), we are very realistic,” Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi, who described himself as “Mr. Gas”, told reporters here. “Our potential is gas.”

“I think it’s inefficient to focus on something that’s not your core business and something that’s not going to benefit you long-term,” he added.

‘A political decision’

Some analysts saw Qatar’s withdrawal as a “political decision to oppose Saudi Arabia”, which alongside the U.S. and Russia is the biggest producer in OPEC.

Saudi Arabia and allies have also imposed a blockade on Qatar.

In September, Qatar announced its plans to boost gas production to 110 million tonnes a year by 2024. Its oil production is around 6,00,000 barrels a day, making it the world’s 17th largest producer of crude, according to WorldData.info. It also only holds around 2% of the world’s global oil reserves, according to the CIA World Factbook.

Mr. Kaabi said that he would still attend OPEC’s Vienna meeting later this week, his “first and last” as Energy Minister. That meeting is expected to set a policy for 2019 and despite Qatar’s announcement, oil prices soared on Monday after Russia and Saudi Arabia renewed a pact to cap output. The pact was cheered by oil traders.

Although Qatar’s move came out of the blue, analysts say it will have limited impact on the global market. ( AFP )