Qatar will do its ‘utmost’ to help supply more LNG to Europe, Minister of State for Energy Affairs HE Saad Sherida Al Kaabi said on Tuesday.
With the crisis in Ukraine leading to concerns over potential disruption to Russian gas supplies to Europe, Kaabi said, Qatar can divert 10 to 15 percent of its gas exports to customers different from those who had initially contracted the sale.
Some of the gas volumes already committed to the United Kingdom can be diverted, he said.
Kaabi’s comments came during a press conference following the conclusion of the sixth Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) summit in Doha on Tuesday.
Addressing the press conference, Kaabi said, “European buyers have come to us to ask for additional volumes. We would support with additional volume if it’s available as the majority of our volume is already tied up in long-term contracts.”
“We are supportive of the EU and ready to supply whatever is possible from our side and the volume that will be available while abiding by contracts and our commitments. We do our utmost to help,” he said.
Given Europe’s dependence on Russian gas that in recent years met around one-third of Europe’s demand, Kaabi said, “No single country could replace lost Russian gas.”
“There isn’t the capacity to do that from LNG. Most LNG volumes are tied to long-term contracts and destinations that are very clear. To replace that sum of volume that quickly is almost impossible,” he said.
Kaabi also stressed that diverting cargoes from one market to another would have a knock-on effect on the market losing the cargo.
“We will not break contracts to favour one customer versus the other,” he said.
“With the tight market that’s there, even if you take from one region to another, what is going to happen is that you’re going to deprive that market and there is going to be a shortage and a spike in price,” he said.
Kaabi said the current high prices were fundamentally a result of a lack of investment in the gas sector and were present before the current crisis in Ukraine.
Kaabi said, “The issue of price increases in Europe started way ahead of the Ukraine issue. The rise in prices was witnessed in the middle of last year. The fundamental issue on pricing is a supply-demand issue and a lack of investment in fossil fuels primarily caused by the euphoria towards an energy transition that was not studied as well as it should have been.”
“When you talk about LNG, it’s something that needs a long time to achieve. If you want to invest in LNG, you need to invest in the field itself…LNG is a very expensive business,” he said.
Kaabi said that the impact of Russia-Ukraine tensions on Europe’s energy prices remained difficult to predict.
“With regards to prices’ predictions, that’s in God’s hands, not mine. I cannot comment on the future,” he said.
Kaabi said that the issue of Russia-Ukraine was not discussed during the high-profile meeting.
“There is absolutely, unequivocally no discussion on anything related to politics in this forum. Regarding the politics of any country and how a sovereign country treats others or gets treated is nothing to do with the GECF,” he said.
“There was absolutely no discussion on anything related to what’s going on in Ukraine because we are not a political forum. There was absolutely, unequivocally no discussion on anything related to politics in this forum,” he said.
Responding to a question over non-UN sanctions imposed on a GECF member, Kaabi said that the matter has nothing to do with the forum.
In response to a question by local media, Kaabi says that his country seeks to support Lebanon in its fuel crisis.
“Lebanon is a very dear country to our leadership and our heart as a nation and I think with the troubles that have happened we lost an opportunity. We had bid to go into Lebanon,” he said.
“We won a tender offered by Lebanon and so on and then it was just delayed three-to-five years. I personally went to Lebanon a couple of times and I’ve discussed a few issues,” he said.
Qatar and Lebanon were reportedly in talks last year to help alleviate Beirut’s power crisis. The situation worsened following the Covid-19 outbreak and the tragic Beirut explosion in 2020.
Speaking alongside Kaabi, Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Tariq El Molla said that his country was working to provide Lebanon with gas.
“We used to export Egyptian gas to Lebanon, but for the last ten years, this has stopped for obvious reasons. What we are currently doing for our Lebanese friends is that we are preparing ourselves to restart the exports of gas to Lebanon,” Molla said.
Egypt used the Arab gas pipeline to supply Lebanon with gas until it faced what Molla describes as “political and technical” disruptions.
“The pipeline is currently being repaired to supply Lebanon with gas in the coming weeks,” he said.
“The Egyptian solution is a quicker solution. We are trying to support LNG, but the LNG solution is a bit of a longer solution. On a longer-term, we are still working to see how we can support Lebanon,” Kaabi said.