Qatar, the biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG) in the Middle East, now leads the world in LNG exports. It outpaced its rivals, Malaysia and Indonesia, in the LNG export race last year.
In its seventh World Oil and Gas Review, Italian energy company Eni reported that Qatar was responsible for 15% of the world's LNG exports in 2006. This is expected to be further enhanced as part of an ongoing expansion programme that seeks to raise the LNG capacity to 77 million tons per annum (Mta) by 2010. Qatar is currently producing 30 Mta.
Qatar exported 31.09bn cubic meters of LNG in 2006, out of a total global figure of 210.52bn cu metres and Indonesia came second with 29.57bn cu metres. In third place was Malaysia, which exported 28.04bn cu metres and Algeria with 24.19bn cu metres.
Reaching the top of the LNG table helped give Qatar the highest GDP per capita in the Middle East last year and also placed it among the wealthiest countries in the world.
A spokesman for the ministry of energy and industry told OBG that it was the planning and organisation of the country's natural resources that allowed Qatar to reach this position. "We have been strategic in our approach and we plan to continue being so," he said.
Qatar, with its vast gas reserves and geographical position, wants to become one of the most reliable and competitive sources for LNG in the world. The Qatari government, supported by its international partners, is confident that by around 2012, Qatari LNG will be reaching all the significant markets, helped by its favourable shipping lanes. One-third is expected to go to the US, one-third to Europe, including UK, Spain and Italy, and one-third to Asia, including Japan, Korea and India.
Brazilian oil company Petrobras this week announced it is exploring the possibility of importing LNG from Qatar on a long-term basis to fuel Brazilian power plants. The company said it would like to import 5 Mta of LNG. The company is also interested in bidding for some Qatari offshore blocks.
However, the ministry of energy and industry spokesman told OBG, "Regarding the bidding for the offshore blocks, we're aware of their interest but there are a lot companies interested in bidding so we will have to wait and see. We're having talks about their interest in the LNG, and in general we are finding very high demand from many countries."
The use of LNG is taking root around the world. Many countries are increasingly turning to this resource due to its environmental benefits compared to oil-based fuels and are already negotiating long-term contracts to ensure reliable and secure supplies.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) published a report in November 2006 that said global LNG demand rose by almost one third between 2000 and 2005. The IEA estimates that LNG capacity will increase by 2010 to 345 MTA, at a projected investment cost of $73bn.
The ministry of energy and industry expects global demand for energy resources to rise by 50% by 2030. It anticipates that most of that increase will be met with fossil fuels, which will require trillions of dollars in investment, implementation of advanced technologies and the knowledge of a skilful workforce throughout the entire energy chain.