Qatar is withdrawing from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) as of January 2019, Saad al-Kaabi the country’s energy minister announced on Monday.
The decision came after Qatar, one of OPEC’s smallest producers but the world’s largest liquefied natural gas exporter, reviewed ways to enhance its role internationally and plan long-term strategy, including focusing on its gas industry, he said.
“Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019 and this decision was communicated to OPEC this morning,” he told a news conference, adding that Qatar would still attend an OPEC meeting in Vienna this week.
The decision to quit the bloc of 15 oil-producing countries that account for almost half of the world’s oil production was confirmed by Qatar Petroleum, the country’s state oil company.
Speaking at a news conference in Doha, Al-Kaabi said: “The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar’s desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tonnes per year to 110 million tonnes in the coming years.”
Qatar is the world’s biggest supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG), producing almost 30 percent of the world total.
Most of Qatar’s almost 80 million tonnes of annual LNG supplies are shipped in tankers to different countries.
Qatar is the first Gulf country to leave the bloc of oil-producing countries.
Qatar joined OPEC in 1961, one year after the organization’s establishment.
Earlier this week, OPEC and Russia, who together produce about 40 percent of the world’s oil, said they agreed on new oil production cuts to ensure the oil price does not drop too much in the coming months.
In October, the oil price reached a four-year high of $86, but since then the price has dropped again to about $60 per barrel.