Only Qatar has enough to meet demand projected over the next 10 years. The rest face shortages of varying intensity. They are addressing them in different ways.

As MEED reported last month, Abu Dhabi has a radical associated gas development programme that will increase supplies by 50 per cent in little more than five years. To achieve this goal, it will create a new joint venture production company with an international oil company (IOC) that will probably have to invest about $10,000 million. Its technical challenge is stripping out sulphur that can account for up to 30 per cent of gas in Abu Dhabi reservoirs.

Saudi Arabia’s twin-track solution is tapping gas produced in association with growing oil output and pursuing one of the biggest exploration projects in energy history. The aim is to lift production of sales gas, which can be used in power and industry, by 2,000 million cubic feet a day (cf/d) and adding an amazing 5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of non-associated gas reserves each year.

Kuwait has pondered various options including importing gas from Qatar by tanker or by pipeline, a plan blocked by Riyadh, and buying from Iran and Iraq. In February, it announced the discovery of 35 tcf of natural gas. It will take years to develop.

Oman started exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) in 2000 and opened the third train at Qalhat earlier this year. Lower-than-expected oil production limits associated gas production. Imports will be needed.

There is plenty of gas in Arabia. But high growth that is projected to continue for at least five years has caught the GCC off balance. That is why the submarine Dolphin pipeline bringing Qatar gas to Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Fujairah and Oman is so timely.

We hear Dolphin supplies will start in the first half of 2007. There is no evidence of an early agreement with Qatar about phase 2 to lift deliveries to 3,000 million cf/d from the initial 2,000 cf/d. But those who argued that the project was essential were right.

The need to ration gas is pushing Saudi Arabia towards reinstating oil-burning generators in some new power stations. International Power Middle East managing director Ranald Spiers told a MEED conference in June that this was a retrograde step. But proponents argue it is better to be safe than sorry when guaranteeing energy supplies.

The GCC has entered an era where the suspicions of the past have no place. The world’s largest proven non-associated gas field straddles the centre of the Gulf between Iran and Qatar. It contains about 900 tcf, more than enough to bridge the difference between demand and supply in other GCC states.

Qatar has declared that no new gas-based projects will be approved until the North field is fully assessed in a report due in mid-2007. There is confidence that proven reserves will be revised up. By then, perhaps, the GCC and the Gulf as a whole will have taken further steps towards the goal of addressing gas needs on a regional rather than a national basis.

Voting in Kuwait.

The year is just over half-way through. But Kuwait has lived several lifetimes in six months. In January, the emir Sheikh Jaber al-Sabah died. His successor Sheikh Saad al-Sabah, the Crown Prince, was replaced less than a fortnight later due to physical incapacity. In May, National Assembly (parliament) members pressing for constituency reform to make parliament more representative boycotted a crucial vote. Six days later, the emir Sheikh Sabah al-Sabah dissolved the body and called early elections in another unprecedented move.

And now women have voted for the first time in national elections. None won seats, but reformers have more than half those open to election and enough to outnumber government supporters and minis