December 16th, 2010
03:47 PM GMT
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While the football world and all its fans were rightly focussed on Qatar 2022, a story kept on the boil by FIFA President Sepp Blatter, the tiny Gulf state announced a big milestone for the natural resource that made it famous - natural gas.

Seventy-seven million metric tons may not trigger alarm bells of excitement in the general public, but it certainly does within energy circles.

Qatar is two years ahead of schedule in hitting this annual target for liquefied natural gas, and is the largest exporter of LNG ahead of Southeast Asian stalwarts Malaysia and Indonesia.

It has a fleet of 54 super tankers hauling its products East and West. Qatar’s veteran energy minister, Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said that the fleet provides him with the ability to stay on top of a rapidly changing customer base. “We can today - because of our flexibility of products and transportation - reach any new customer, even the next day.”

Qatar has been a game changer in the market for this product and made a huge bet on the new technology to compress natural gas into liquid form when the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani took the reigns of power.

The milestone marked at the Qatari industrial city of Ras Laffan -– in the company of chief executives from Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips –- comes during the same week that the Qatar Foundation announced the biggest sponsorship package in football history, signing on with Barcelona for a five year, $225 million deal.

It was the Emir’s roll of the dice on LNG technology, helped along in both technology and capital by the energy majors in Qatar, which allows for such high-profile investments.

How have times changed: The country was nearly bankrupt in the early 1990s when oil prices plummeted and Qatar was not a big enough player in the crude market to carry sway. It still ranks near the bottom, just above Ecuador in terms of OPEC rankings, but is third in natural gas reserves behind Russia and Iran. Iran may have problems securing investors for its South Pars field due to economic sanctions, but Qatar continues to produce at a record clip on its side of the same field. Minister Al-Attiyah said that he hopes to expand capacity by as much as 10 million tons in the near future.

To put this into perspective, the Persian Gulf state is producing the gas equivalent of five million barrels a day of crude. That is a handsome sum with a population of just 1.6 million people, 70 percent of them expats.

The minister tries to keep his feet on the ground despite all the fanfare surrounding the milestone. He is expressing concerns for example that oil prices are closer to $90 a barrel rather than $80 and that may dampen demand in 2011.

“I need a very strong consumer. If my consumer becomes weak, I will become weak too,” says Al Attiyah. Indeed higher prices may dent demand, but certainly not the new 77-million-ton giant.

soundoff (12 Responses)
  1. I_Ben

    Qatar has been a game changer in the market for this product and made a huge bet on the new technology to compress natural gas into liquid form when the Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani took the reigns of power. Thank you Mr John Defterios could you please say how the Emir got the reigns of power in Qatar? Why Aljazeera Qatarit news channel don't talk about Qatar problems?

    December 17, 2010 at 10:52 am |
  2. Abafidu

    One can wish that the real owners of this wealth would be the Qataris, not some superpower somewhere.

    December 17, 2010 at 10:57 am |
  3. Vincent Owino

    CNN is always amazing! I always check the news before I go to bed, just to get a feel of the state of the universe.
    Unfortunately, I just checked on the photos of your contributors and without any thought whatsoever, just checked on profiles of just lady contributors! And then I was like-wait a minute, why not the guys?why this order? Is this normal? (You always have experts!)
    Merry Xmas and Congratulation to Larry King. I hope such a day wont be knocking on Quests` office!

    December 17, 2010 at 4:11 pm |
  4. highheeledtraders

    I'm glad this find came about and help to reduce the speed at which oil prices will increase. LNG technology to fuel cars should also be sped up

    December 18, 2010 at 2:28 am |
  5. Manuel Vilhena

    Good news for the energy sector. Beautiful ship.


    December 18, 2010 at 6:40 pm |
  6. ahmed

    i happy for 2022 in middle east

    December 19, 2010 at 8:38 am |
  7. Ali BA

    Success with a price. With all the money coming in...then why does my beloved Qatar still practice slavery? I only know three other countries in the world that have labour camps like you'll see all over Qatar. Please visit the living conditions of the expats who generate this wealth and create the very infrastructure Qatar grows with. It's saddening. Some go months without pay, electricity, air conditioning and worse. Qatar has gotten rich...but hasn't grown up. Please help fix us.

    December 23, 2010 at 5:05 am |
  8. Daniel Leng Jiun Yean

    I predict China will come out with its own unique facebook.
    Why China want to protect them self?
    If they do not use this strategy, such huge land will declare independent state by state.
    We want to be united as a Chinese race and trade with outsiders.

    December 23, 2010 at 7:23 am |
  9. Faraz

    This looks a great story of devotion but suddenly I feel Qatar should do much better in terms of facilities to common men. Medical and Education together with democratic monarchy (like UK) can do wonder!

    December 23, 2010 at 7:48 am |
  10. bnt_qatar

    @ ali ba, fisrt qatar doesnt pratice slavery, these workers that come stay for as long as they want and can leave when they want, some find that life is better in qatar and therefore stay put, and they get paid i have heard this saying from workers before "no pay no work" and they aint kiding so what does the gov do pay them there money
    its true qatar has gotten rich, and with all this money it all goes out to education, medical care and more, though there is no country in the world that is perfect and i think tha qatar still has to fix some things here and there, but it will always stay ture to my hear

    January 5, 2011 at 1:22 am |
  11. icon download

    Certainly, never it is impossible to be assured.

    October 9, 2012 at 9:51 pm |

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