State energy major Qatar Petroleum is looking to invest as much as US$20 billion in LNG projects in the United States over the next few years, Reuters reports, citing the company’s chief executive. The investment is separate, apparently, from Qatar’s plans to boost its local production capacity from the current 77 million tons of LNG annually to 110 million tones by the early 2020s.
Qatar already has a solid presence in the emerging LNG market of the United States. It is the majority stakeholder in the Golden Pass terminal in Texas, where it has partnered with Exxon and ConocoPhillips. Yet, the US$20 billion won’t be spent just on LNG, Saad al-Kaabi told Reuters. Qatar Petroleum will also look into oil production in the United States.
The small Gulf nation, which has been under a blockade from its neighbors led by Saudi Arabia for more than a year now, was until November the world’s largest LNG exporter. In November, Australia took the number-one spot, however, likely motivating Qatar to double down on its production capacity expansion bet.
Meanwhile, the emirate also quit OPEC days before its last meeting to discuss production, in order to focus more on its natural gas plans. Since the move was surprising and came so close before the meeting, many read into it additional significance, such as a suggestion that the cartel is not as relevant for the oil market as it used to be in the past.
However, Al-Kaabi now said there was another reason behind its decision to quote OPEC: the NOPEC legislation in the United States, which could make members of the group liable to anti-trust laws.
The Qatar Petroleum official said the final decision on the massive U.S. investment will be made before this year’s end or by the end of January at the latest.
By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com
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Australia can never dethrone Qatar for the simple reason that Qatar has a fully integrated LNG industry meaning that it has the world’s third largest proven reserves of natural gas, it also has the plants that convert the gas into LNG, it is the world’s biggest producer and exporter of LNG, it has a fleet of LNG tankers and furthermore all its investments have been paid for long time ago. Moreover, it is the cheapest producer of LNG in the world. Of great importance though is the fact that the decision-maker is one authority, namely Qatar Petroleum whilst in Australia there are many decision-makers as LNG production and investments are carried out by many companies.
And in order to continue occupying the top spot in LNG, Qatar is expanding its LNG production from the current 77 million tons to 110 million tons by 2023/24. Qatar is also enhancing its lead by buying the competition or investing in more LNG productive assets around the world. The proposed investment of $20 bn in LNG projects in the United States over the next few years falls within that investment strategy. Qatar already has a significant presence in the emerging LNG market of the United States. It is the majority stakeholder in the Golden Pass terminal in Texas, where it has partnered with ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips.
Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
International Oil Economist
Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London