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Doha refocuses gas potential

Qatar is targeting petrochemicals production to keep ahead of its global gas-producing rivals

As one of the most outspoken oil and gas officials in the world, Qatar’s deputy prime minister, Abdullah al-Attiyah, can always be relied upon to say something worth putting into print.

Speaking at MEED’s Qatar Projects 2013 conference on 18 February, the official recounted how disappointed his country had been when told in the 1970s that the massive offshore field that had been discovered actually contained gas and not oil.

Fast-forward 40 years to 2013, and the global attitude to gas has evolved. Gas is now seen as a cleaner, reliable and more versatile alternative to oil. The huge advances in liquefied natural gas (LNG) infrastructure also means gas can now be delivered to any country that has a port with an LNG gasification terminal attached.

Qatar is now the world’s largest exporter of LNG with a capacity of 77 million tonnes a year (t/y) and is considered the industry’s swing producer. However, Australia is expected to surpass Qatar in this respect by 2020, and both the US and Canada are currently constructing LNG infrastructure that will allow them to become net exporters of gas.  

With the threat of a global gas glut, Qatar has realised that having most of its natural resources tied up in LNG is not what the country needs. With this in mind, Doha has now instigated an ambitious expansion of its petrochemicals sector that will see 23 million t/y of production by 2020.

Doha does need to diversify the way it monetises its gas assets and the country has been producing petrochemicals for as long as it has been producing gas.

For such a small country, Qatar has always done well to maintain a lead over many of its gas-producing rivals. The expansion of its chemicals industry is just the next step in the ever-evolving Qatari hydrocarbons sector.