Doha: Relying more on the production and expansion of natural gas in years to come, Gulf nation’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi announced on Monday that Qatar would withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) in January next year.
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.
Addressing a news conference 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.
Since 2013, the amount of oil Qatar produced has steadily declined from about 728,000 barrels per day in 2013 to about 607,000 barrels per day in 2017, or just under 2 percent of OPEC’s total output.
Meanwhile, total production during the same period increased from 30.7 million barrels per day to 32.4 million barrels per day.
Qatar joined OPEC in 1961, one year after the organisation’s establishment.
Earlier this week, OPEC and Russia, who together produce about 40 percent of the world’s oil, said they agreed on new oil production cuts to ensure the oil price does not drop too much in the coming months.
In October, the oil price reached a four-year high of $86, but since then the price has dropped again to about $60 per barrel.
Qatar is the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), producing almost 30 percent of the world total.
Al-Kaabi added the decision to increase the supply of natural gas is to “develop a future strategy based on growth and expansion, both in its activities at home and abroad.”
“Achieving our ambitious growth strategy will undoubtedly require focused efforts, commitment and dedication to maintain and strengthen Qatar’s position as the leading natural gas producer,” he added.
Qatar shares the world’s largest known natural gas field, the North Field, with Iran.
In September, Qatar announced it would increase its production of natural gas by adding a fourth production line, to raise capacity from the North Field to 110 million tonnes a year.
Most of Qatar’s almost 80 million tonnes of annual LNG supplies are shipped in tankers to different countries, including the UAE, which is one of the countries imposing the blockade on Qatar.
Following the announcement of the blockade, however, Qatar said it would not close down the gas pipeline to its fellow Gulf country.