Qatar plans energy shake-up to fuel global investment and expansion

Qatar’s new leadership is expected to accelerate plans to spin off its prized asset, Qatar Petroleum, from the energy ministry to allow the world’s biggest liquefied gas producer to grow more quickly abroad at a time of rising rivalry from new producers.

 Qatar’s global LNG market dominance is under threat as new producers in the United States, Australia and East Africa will flood the market with new volumes in the next few years.Industry sources say Qatar hopes that the spinoff will speed up decision making.“In many ways it [the plan] would increase efficiency,” a source at Qatar Petroleum, or QP, said.

“The rationale behind the desire for international growth is the moratorium, as the growth potential at home is limited.”QP’s growth prospects at home are severely hampered by a self-imposed moratorium on new projects to tap the world’s biggest gas reservoir, the North Field, leaving international expansion as best chance of maintaining its gas market share.

The moratorium is expected to remain in place until at least 2015. By that time, former leading Qatari LNG buyer, the United States, is expected to start exporting its own LNG, while a wave of Australian projects are due to start supplying Asia — which currently buys about half Qatar’s LNG. QP revenues have bankrolled the Gulf state’s transition into a pivotal player in the Middle East as well as an important global investor in Western banks and companies.

Although the first steps towards giving QP more independence were taken over a year ago, last month’s father-to-son power transfer may prove an additional catalyst for the plan. The first hints of changes emerged about 18 months ago when energy minister Mohammed bin Saleh Al Sada’s department was divided into a ministerial and QP business side.

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