Qatar is to leave OPEC next month in order for the Gulf state to focus on gas production, Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced on Monday. “Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019,” Kaabi said at a Doha press conference.
He added that Qatar would still continue to produce oil but would concentrate on gas production, where it is the biggest exporter of liquified natural gas in the world.
“We don’t have great potential (in oil), we are very realistic. Our potential is gas," al-Kaabi said.
“In light of such efforts and plans, and in our pursuit to strengthen Qatar’s position as a reliable and trustworthy energy supplier across the globe, we had to take steps to review Qatar’s role and contributions on the international energy scene,” al-Kaabi said in a statement.
Kaabi said that OPEC, which Qatar joined in 1961, was told of the decision on Monday ahead of the announcement.
The organisation is dominated by oil-rich Saudi Arabia, which since June 2017 has led a bloc of countries in imposing a blockade on Qatar.
The surprise announcement from Qatar’s minister of state for energy affairs, Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, again throws into question the role of the cartel after needing non-members to push through a production cut in 2016 after prices crashed below $30 a barrel. It also marks the first time a Mideast nation has left the cartel since its founding in 1960.
There was no immediate comment from Vienna-based OPEC, which is to meet this month and discuss possible production cuts.
Qatar, a country of 2.6 million people where citizens make up over 10 per cent of the population, discovered the offshore North Field in 1971, the same year it became independent.
It took years for engineers to discover the field’s vast reserves, which shot Qatar to No 3 in world rankings, behind Russia and Iran, with which it shares the North Field.