Qatar leaving Opec to focus on gas, takes swipe at Saudi Arabia

Qatar said on Monday it will be leaving OPEC from Jan 2019 but would attend the oil exporter group's meeting this week.

Doha says decision not driven by politics; move mars bid to show unity before key meet

DOHA/SEOUL • Qatar said yesterday it was quitting Opec from next month to focus on its gas ambitions, taking a swipe at the group's de facto leader Saudi Arabia and marring efforts to show unity before this week's meeting of exporters to tackle an oil price slide.

Doha, one of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries' (Opec) smallest oil producers but the world's biggest liquefied natural gas exporter, is embroiled in a protracted diplomatic row with Saudi Arabia and some other Arab states.

Qatar said its decision was not driven by politics but, in an apparent swipe at Riyadh, Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi said: "We are not saying we are going to get out of the oil business but it is controlled by an organisation managed by a country."

He did not name the nation.

He told a news conference that Doha's decision "was communicated to Opec" but said Qatar would attend the group's meeting on Thursday and Friday, and would abide by its commitments.

He said Doha would focus on its gas potential as it was not practical for it "to put efforts and resources and time in an organisation that we are a very small player in and I don't have a say in what happens".

  • US$62

    What a barrel of benchmark Brent is trading at now, down from more than US$86 in October.

Delegates at Opec, which has 15 members including Qatar, sought to play down the impact. But losing a longstanding member undermines a bid to show a united front before a meeting that is expected to back a supply cut to shore up crude prices, which have lost almost 30 per cent since an October peak.

"They (Qatar) are not a big producer but have played a big part in its (Opec's) history," an Opec source said.

The development highlights the growing dominance of Saudi Arabia, Russia and the United States - the world's top three oil producers, which together account for almost a third of global output - over policymaking in the oil market .

OPEC 'MANAGED' BY COUNTRY

We are not saying we are going to get out of the oil business but it is controlled by an organisation managed by a country.

QATAR'S MINISTER OF STATE FOR ENERGY AFFAIRS SAAD AL-KAABI, in an apparent swipe at Saudi Arabia, Opec's de facto leader. 

Riyadh and Moscow have been increasingly deciding output policies together, under pressure from US President Donald Trump on Opec to lower prices.

Benchmark Brent is trading at around US$62 a barrel, down from more than US$86 in October.

This comes as oil rebounded from its biggest monthly loss in a decade yesterday after Russia and Saudi Arabia agreed to extend their deal to manage the oil market into next year.

Brent rose as much as 2.3 per cent in London, after the front-month contract plunged more than 20 per cent last month.

REUTERS, BLOOMBERG

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 04, 2018, with the headline 'Qatar leaving Opec to focus on gas, takes swipe at Saudi Arabia'. Print Edition | Subscribe