Qatar Has Eyes on More Long-Term Deals as It Bets Big on LNG

image is BloomburgMedia_S9GDVVT0AFB400_26-02-2024_11-00-07_638445024000000000.jpg

An LNG terminal in Japan.

Qatar is seeking more gas deals in Europe and Asia in a bet demand will continue to grow as it embarks on a new multibillion-dollar project to expand exports.

The Middle Eastern nation — already one of the world’s largest suppliers of LNG — plans a new 13% increase in annual capacity on top of a previously-announced expansion. Population growth, particularly in Asia, will drive demand along with an economic recovery across the world, Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad Al-Kaabi said. The country is also looking to lock in more contracts in Europe, he said.

Saad Al-KaabiSource: Bloomberg

The decision to plough yet more investment into gas production comes as an outlook for a supply glut and a shift by some countries away from fossil fuels threatens projects elsewhere. Global gas demand could peak by the end of this decade, according to some analysts, including the International Energy Agency.

Qatar’s push highlights the importance of gas for the country. Exports of the fuel are the country’s biggest revenue earner which has already made it one of the wealthiest countries and helped boost its global clout since it started shipments about two decades ago.

“We’ve been consistently saying that we need a lot of LNG,” Al-Kaabi said in an interview on Sunday. “We need more gas for the world, and we need more players.” 

Qatar will add 16 million tons of annual production capacity before the end of this decade, in addition to a 49 million tons per year expansion that already underway. It has signed a 27-year pact with China Petroleum & Chemical Corp. and with European companies such as Eni SpA, TotalEnergies SE and Shell Plc. Still, BloombergNEF data show the country needs to find buyers for supply from about half of the ongoing expansion.  

US Pause

The move also comes just as the US, the world’s biggest LNG producer last year, has paused issuing new export licenses while it considers the impact of higher exports on the climate, the economy and national security. 

That decision will hit small American producers that rely on securing long-term sales agreements to underpin investments in liquefaction projects, according to Al-Kaabi. 

“Buyers will not go for these sellers if every day the government could stop the process,” he said. “It’s very difficult to have long-term planning when you have that.” 

Natural gas prices have slumped in recent months, in part due to mild weather and muted demand, but also because Europe’s energy crisis has faded and new LNG production facilities are expected to ease any residual market tightness.

While it’s counterintuitive for Qatar to expand in a potentially “oversupplied market, we believe the region, which is the lowest-cost LNG supplier in the world, can benefit from increased long-term market share while conveying the image of a reliable supplier,” analysts at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. said in a note.

Qatar is insulated from the full impact of global price swings, Al-Kaabi said. “If there’s a downturn, we will be able to cope with it more than others.” 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.

By Verity Ratcliffe


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