Qatar has been ruled by the Al-Thani family since the mid-1800s. In 1995, Crown Prince Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani deposed his father to become emir and has brought in various political reforms. The first parliamentary elections occurred in 2003. In June, 2013, Emir Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani handed power over to his son Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.The population is small at only around 1.6 million and expatriates far outnumber Qataris.

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Qatar at a glance
Full Name:  State of Qatar
Capital:  Doha
Area:  11,437 sq km
Population(m): 2.0 (2013)
Head of state:  Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani
Currency:  Qatari rial (QR)
Religions:  Muslim 77.5%, Christian 8.5%, other 14%
Languages:  Arabic (official), English
International organisations:  GCC, Arab League, Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), Opec, UN, World Trade Organisation (WTO)

Economy

Qatar’s industrialisation drive began in earnest in the late 1960s, with the start of offshore oil production and refining in 1968.

The pivotal year in the country’s industrial development was 1974, which saw the establishment of Qatar Petroleum and Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco). It was also the year Qatar adopted its first five-year industrial development plan.

The plan set out an industrialisation strategy, the basic objectives of which remain in place today, namely to diversify income resources and increase the contribution of manufacturing to gross domestic product (GDP) by adding value to hydrocarbon resources and to increase the percentage of the national workforce employed by the industrial sector. It prioritised the development of metals and petrochemicals manufacturing and the production of natural gas liquids.

In the 1990s, Qatar began to open up its economy to the private sector. In telecoms, the government sold off a 45 per cent stake in the state-owned Qatar Telecom (Qtel) in 1998. Privatisation of the power sector is also in progress: in May 2000 the Ministry of Electricity and Water (MEW) transferred assets to the Qatar General Electricity and Water Corporation (QEWC), which is 43 per cent government-owned and 57 per cent owned by private local investors.

With predictions that Qatar’s population could reach 2.6m by 2026, Doha in 2010 unveiled a multi-billion dollar transport master plan that includes construction a state-of-the-art public transport system and sophisticated road network.

The country has won the bid to host the World Cup in 2022, after losing out on its 2016 Olympic bid.

Oil & gas

Despite its modest size, Qatar was the world’s fourth largest dry natural gas producer in 2012 (behind the United States, Russia, and Iran), and has been the world’s leading liquefied natural gas (LNG) exporter since 2006. Qatar is also at the forefront of gas-to-liquids (GTL) production, and the country is home to the world’s largest GTL facility.

The growth in Qatar’s natural gas production, particularly since 2000, has also increased Qatar’s total liquids production, as lease condensates, natural gas plant liquids, and other petroleum liquids are a significant (and valuable) byproduct of natural gas production.

Qatar produced nearly 1.6 million barrels per day (bbl/d) of liquid fuels (crude oil, condensates, natural gas plant liquids, gas-to-liquids, and other liquids) in 2013, of which 730,000 bbl/d was crude oil and the remainder was non-crude liquids.

While Qatar is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), the country is the second-smallest crude oil producer among the 12-member group. Natural gas meets the vast majority of Qatar’s domestic energy demand, so the country is able to export most of its liquid fuels production. Given its small population, Qatar’s energy needs are met almost entirely by domestic sources.

Petrochemicals

Qatar’s hydrocarbons industry is embarking on a diversification programme that aims to massively increase its petrochemicals production while remaining the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG).

Qatar currently produces 9.3 million t/y of chemicals and aims to increase this to 23 million t/y by 2020. Its petrochemicals projects are concentrated at two locations – Ras Laffan and Mesaieed.

Almost 80 per cent of planned projects are in these downstream oil and gas areas and this reflects Qatar’s growing interest in adding value to a percentage of its gas resources. Two major projects dominate the list and they are both petrochemicals schemes.

The $6.4bn Ras Laffan Olefins project is a joint venture of QP and the UK/Dutch Shell Group. The project consists of a mixed-feed cracker that can use ethane and propane as a feedstock. The capacity will be 1.1 million t/y of ethylene and 170,000 t/y of propylene. Three other technical units will be built to utilise the ethylene feedstock.  They include 1.5 million t/y of monoethylene glycol (MEG), 300,000 t/y of linear alpha olefins (LAO) and 250,000 of oxo-alcohols unit.

The other project is another QP joint venture, this time with the Qatar Petrochemical Company (Qapco). A mixed feed cracker with a capacity of 1.4 million t/y will be built at a complex in Ras Laffan. A further 850,000 (t/y) of high-density polyethylene, 430,000 t/y of linear low-density polyethylene, 760,000 t/y of polypropylene and 83,000 t/y of butadiene will be produced.

Power and water

Despite experiencing some of the highest demand growth rates for power over the past five years, effective planning and significant investment by Qatar’s utility providers has enabled the country to build up one of the GCC’s widest power reserve margins.

Qatar had a reserve margin of 29 per cent in 2012. Its installed capacity was 8,671MW, while peak demand that year totalled 6,255MW. This cushion between supply and demand has resulted in a slowdown in contract awards in the power sector, reaching $794m in 2012, 74 per cent less than the $3bn-worth of contracts awarded in 2008.

While there is no immediate need for further generation capacity, Qatar’s transmission sector will be the focus for investment over the next five years. Qatar General Electricity & Water Corporation (Kahramaa) plans to spend $10bn on transmission projects by 2018, double the $5bn it has set aside for generation schemes. Doha is also planning to start work on the initial phases of developing a renewable energy sector over the next eight years.