That Aramco is the world’s biggest oil producer is, it’s safe to say, common knowledge. The rest of the top 5 oil companies could be a bit difficult for a remote industry observer to identify, and one of them is bound to surprise. This is Qatar Petroleum, the state-owned oil and gas company of the tiny Gulf kingdom.
Qatar Petroleum has stayed out of the limelight, or rather, as Bloomberg’s Mohammed Sergie put it, is in the shadow of Aramco, but from now on it’s likely to start attracting more attention.
For starters, Qatar Petroleum has more than doubled its oil and gas production since 2006: total oil, gas and condensate output hit 5.17 million barrels of oil equivalent daily in 2015. By this measure, Qatar Petroleum is now the world’s #4 hydrocarbons producer, ahead of Russia’s giant Rosneft, with its 5.1 million boed of daily output.
Then, it should be noted that most of this total is actually gas – Qatar sits on the world’s third-largest gas reserves, at 24.3 trillion cubic meters, after Iran and Russia. The kingdom is doing good business with this gas, and has become the largest exporter of LNG in the world.
In an environment of rising supply and falling prices, Qatar Petroleum recently announced plans to merge its two LNG subsidiaries, Qatargas and RasGas, together producing some 77 million tons of LNG every year. The move des not just aim to reduce costs, however. It also aims to spearhead Qatar Petroleum’s international expansion under the name of Qatargas.
Although Qatar has the highest income per capita in the world thanks to its gas—and to a lesser extent oil—wealth, the kingdom did not emerge unscathed from the price crisis. In the oil department, it is struggling with field depletion and lack of commercially viable new discoveries. Related: Permian Drilling Costs Surge: Are The Days Of Cheap Oilfield Services Over?
Last month, Qatar Petroleum produced an average 615,000 bpd, from a peak of 880,000 bpd back in 2008. Now, as Bloomberg reports, gas and LNG production and exports have made up for this decline in terms of revenues, despite the fact that the prices of gas and LNG are not what they used to be a couple of years ago.
What’s perhaps more relevant for the world of Big Oil is that unlike most big players, Qatar Petroleum has plenty of money for a major international expansion. The kingdom relies on its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, to keep the economy going and growing, despite a small deficit last year, by making investments abroad.
In fact, the QIA is doing so well that according to Finance Minister Al Al Emadi, Qatar may not have to tap the bond market to plug its budget gap left from last year.
Last month, the QIA funded the acquisition, together with Glencore, of a 19.5-percent interest in Rosneft. Earlier this month, Qatar Petroleum joined an international consortium for the development of a major LNG project in Pakistan, alongside Exxon, Total, Mitsubishi, and Norwegian Hoegh.
With the money to expand and a sensible international investment strategy, Qatar is well on its way to coming out of the shadows and emerging as a rival that Big Oil will have to reckon with in its own expansion plans.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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