Ukraine confrontation casts shadow over Qatar gas summit

Major gas producers are meeting in Qatar from Sunday to discuss how to meet frenzied global demand, with Russian President Vladimir Putin expected to stay away as tensions in Ukraine soar, officials said. diplomats.

The 11-member Gas Exporting Countries Forum holds its annual summit as the confrontation with Ukraine drives up prices while Europe fears for its supplies from Russia.

The group which includes Russia, Qatar, Iran, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria – accounting for more than 70% of proven gas reserves – has faced increasing pressure as Europe seeks suppliers alternatives to Russia.

But most say they have already reached or near maximum production and can only send short-term relief supplies to Europe if existing customers agree.

Diplomats who took part in the preparatory meetings said the group – which does not include major Australian and US producers – will discuss ways to increase production in the medium term.

“But their hands are tied, there’s hardly any spare gasoline,” one said on condition of anonymity.

After two days of ministerial meetings, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, who has rarely left his country since taking office, is to join the Emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, for Tuesday’s summit.

Putin is unlikely to accept his invitation despite his country’s importance, diplomats have said.

Thierry Bros, a professor at the Paris Institute of Political Studies who specializes in the gas industry, said Russia played a dominant role in the industry, with its giant Gazprom the only company with spare capacity. .

“So Putin decides and he decides in the Kremlin.”

– Contractual demands –

Bros said the forum would likely reaffirm its message to Europe that it must sign long-term contracts to secure a guaranteed supply.

All the producing countries will have to make massive investments to increase their production, but the European Union has long resisted contracts of 10, 15 or 20 years. Now, however, he has pledged to switch to clean energy and is also dealing with the Ukraine crisis.

“The meeting is interesting because there are the Russians, with whom we no longer like to talk, and the Qataris, who are great friends of the European Commission, once again to try to get liquefied gas.

“For Russia and Qatar, the goal is to maximize revenue and secure a long-term market for their gas product,” he said.

– Ukraine link –

Qatar has increasingly sought to boost its diplomatic influence as a mediator and facilitator so that Ukraine can also be discussed in the talks, according to Andreas Krieg, a security specialist at King’s College London.

“Qatar could use this forum to reach out to Russia over Ukraine, as all parties are concerned about what an escalation of the crisis would mean for global gas supply security.”

He said Russia may want contacts with Qatar as European customers look to the emirate as an alternative supplier. Russia currently holds 40% of the European market and Qatar 5%.

“It would be quite an opportunity if Qatar could use the forum to offer its good offices to the United States to mediate between them and Russia in this crisis.”

Qatar and Iran also have overlapping gas interests in the Gulf and the emirate has sought to help diplomatic efforts to revive a 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers.

“Sanction relief for Iran would also affect the gas sector and gas exports, which would be conducive to the forum’s overall goal of maintaining gas supply security,” Krieg said.

Edward N. Arrington