After leading Qatar for more than 18 years to become the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (LNG), Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar’s energy & industry minister has been replaced by state minister of energy Mohammad Salah al-Sada.

The 59-year old Al-Attiyah retains his position as deputy prime minister and was named head of the ruler’s court, according to a decree from Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, state-owned Qatar News Agency reports.

According to analysts, one argument for the sudden change of leadership is that after almost two decades of jetting around the world, Al-Attiyah simply wanted to reduce his workload.

“This would explain why he has retained his deputy minister position and been appointed head of the Emiri Diwan,” says a source.

The timing of his replacement also makes sense, the source says, as Qatar has come to the end of a massive energy investment programme, which has seen it deliver on the promise of lifting LNG production capacity to 77 million tonnes a year. It has also become a global centre for gas-to-liquids production (MEED 28:9:10).

Al-Sada had been considered Al-Attiyah’s likely successor since the post of Minister of State for Energy & Industry Affairs was created in 2007.  

“At the time no one could quite work out why the post was set up other than to provide someone with the training and experience to take over the much bigger and more important role of energy and industry minister,” says the source.

Al-Sada also comes with more than 23 years’ experience with state upstream operator, Qatar Petroleum. In 2006, he was appointed managing director of RasGas Company. Al-Sada is also vice-chairman of Qatar Chemical Company and Qatar Steel Company. Al-Sada holds a doctorate from the Manchester Institute of Science and Technology in the UK and a degree in marine science and geology from Qatar University.