DOHA: Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi on Monday announced his country will leave the OPEC next month in order for the Gulf state to focus on gas production.
“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019,” the minister said at a press conference in Doha.
The Gulf state would still continue to produce oil but would concentrate on gas production, where it is the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas in the world, he said.
OPEC, which Qatar joined in 1961, was informed of the decision ahead of the announcement, he said.
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 minister said the withdrawal reflects his country’s desire to focus on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tons per year to 110 million tons in coming years.
The announcement came ahead of December 6 meeting of OPEC.
Al-Kaabi said that Qatar decided to pull out this calendar year as to not be an OPEC member in 2019. He clarified that the decision not related to the blockade of Qatar by OPEC countries Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and their non-OPEC allies Egypt and Bahrain.
OPEC and Russia, who together produce about 40 percent of the world’s oil, this week said they agreed on new oil production cuts to ensure oil price does not drop too much in the coming months.
The oil prices in October, reached a four-year high of $86, but since then the price has dropped to about $60 per barrel.
Qatar is the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), producing almost 30 percent of the world’s natural gas.
It also shares the world’s largest natural gas field, the North Field, with Iran.