Qatar announced on Monday that it will withdraw from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), at the end of December.
The Gulf nation’s Energy Minister Saad Sherida al-Kaabi announced this at a news conference in Doha, saying “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 quit the 15-member bloc of oil-producing countries which accounts for a significant percentage of the world’s oil production.
OPEC is due to meet on December 6, 2018
According to Al Jazeera correspondent Charlotte Bellis, Qatari officials said the decision “has nothing to do with the blockade on Qatar and that they have been thinking about it for several months now.” She was referring to a diplomatic blockade on Qatar by Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates ( UAE), Egypt and Bahrain.
“They also said that if you want to withdraw from OPEC it had to be done before the end of the year,” she added.
“They said they wanted to do this now and be transparant ahead of a December 6 OPEC meeting.”
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.
According to Al Jazeera’s Bellis, Al-Kaabi said the declaration was purely a business decision.
“Al-Kaabi said ‘we are a small player in OPEC, and I’m a businessman, it doesn’t make sense for me to focus on things that are not our strength, and gas is our strength so that is why we’ve made this decision’,” Bellis said.
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.
Source: Al Jazeera