Qatar will withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) effective January 1, a move the country’s minister of state for energy affairs said on Monday was “purely business” to boost the country’s natural gas production.
Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi told a press conference in Doha that he informed the OPEC of the decision on Monday morning, explaining that the decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus on natural gas as the most important sector for the country.
He denied the decision was linked to an ongoing boycott by four fellow Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, who have demanded that Doha downgrade ties with Iran, a regional rival of the Saudis.
“Qatar’s decision to exit OPEC is not political, it was purely a business decision for Qatar’s future strategy towards the energy sector,” Qatar’s news agency quoted the minister as saying.
Doha is a leading exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), delivering around 4 trillion cubic feet per year.
“I would like to reaffirm Qatar’s pride in its international standing at the forefront of natural gas producers, and as the biggest LNG producer in the world – as the cleanest fossil fuel known to mankind, which has given Qatar a strong and resilient economy,” al-Kaabi said.
According to QNA, the minister said the oil market will not be affected by the move, since Qatar is not a major oil producer.
Al-Kaabi also said that state-owned Qatar Petroleum has worked to increase LNG production.
“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,” al-Kaabi said, according to Qatar Petroleum.
Qatar, the first country in the region to quit the group, is one of OPEC’s smallest oil producers. Its output of 609,000 barrels per day in October accounts for less than 2 per cent of the cartel’s overall production.
OPEC, whose stated mission is to “coordinate and unify” its members’ policies and “ensure the stabilization of oil markets,” thanked the country for its long-standing support, the organization’s secretariat said in Vienna on Monday.
The group said it “respects the decision taken by the State of Qatar,” and added that it “remains fully committed to achieving and sustaining balance and stability in the [oil] market.”
Qatar’s announcement came ahead of a ministerial meeting between OPEC and other oil-producing countries, who will discuss in Vienna on Thursday and Friday whether to further limit oil supplies in order to bolster prices.
Al-Kaabi said his country, which joined the oil cartel in 1961, will attend the meeting for the last time as a member.
The OPEC’s 15 member countries have generally tried to leave political tensions outside their boardroom.
Qatar, which is gearing up to host the World Cup in 2022, has been in a dispute with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt since June 2017, when they imposed economic and political sanctions on the country.
The quartet accused Qatar of supporting and funding terrorists, a charge that Doha denied, and demanded that it downgrade ties with Iran.
Qatar rejected the demand, calling it an “infringement of its sovereignty.”