Europe cannot live without Russian gas. Can this small Middle Eastern country help?

Qatar, one of the world’s leading suppliers of liquefied natural gas (LNG), has come under the spotlight as European states race to find alternatives to the Russian gas that has fueled their economies for decades, as Moscow continues its brutal war in Ukraine.

But Kaabi warned that the transition will be difficult. Replacing Russian gas supplies to Europe is “not practically possible” at the moment, he said. Qatar’s current gas capacity will not meet European demand, he said, but it could in the future.

US President Joe Biden and his counterpart in the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Friday the creation of a joint task force aimed at finding alternative sources of LNG supply and reducing global gas demand. natural in the future.

“Europe has been a destination for us and an important market for us,” said the Qatari minister, who is also chairman and CEO of QatarEnergy. “And we will supply Europe.”

Qatar has invested $28 billion in the expansion of its giant North Field and expects gas capacity to increase by more than 60% in four years, he said. After that, about half of its capacity should be destined for Europe. “Our plan is that we want to be 50% east of Suez, 50% west of Suez,” he said, referring to the Egyptian waterway. About 80% of Qatar’s gas is currently routed to Asian buyers, many of whom have signed long-term contracts that do not allow supplies to be diverted to other buyers.

Here’s what you need to know about the role Qatar can play in Europe’s efforts to wean itself off Russian gas:

What can Qatar do to help reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian gas now?

Russia has the largest natural gas reserves in the world, almost double those of Qatar, and its gas supplies represent 40% of the European Union’s consumption. Analysts said it was virtually impossible to replace Russian gas at the moment.

“There is hardly any reserve LNG on the global market,” said Robin Mills, CEO of Dubai-based energy consultancy Qamar Energy. Qatar’s own divertable LNG is limited “and bidding for it will drive up prices”.

The only way for Qatar to replace Russian gas imports in Europe is to divert shipments from other customers who have signed long-term contracts, such as those in Asia, which it has not wanted to do. In doing so, it may incur claims for compensation from such purchasers.

Contractually divertable gas gives the seller the flexibility to redirect shipments to the higher value market in response to changing market conditions.

As Europe tries to reduce its dependence on hydrocarbons, emerging economies in Asia, such as China and India, could be more attractive destinations for Qatari gas, said Yousef Alshammari, senior researcher at Imperial. College of London.

The United States could also become a gas supplier for Europe.

The White House said on Friday that the United States would strive to supply Europe with at least 15 billion cubic meters of liquefied natural gas in 2022 in partnership with other countries.

“It’s a great opportunity for the United States,” Kaabi said. “I think the United States is definitely going to be, you know, one of the biggest suppliers, if not the biggest supplier [to Europe] at some point,” he said.

Would replacing Russian gas with Qatari energy pose logistical problems?

Gas supply from Russia to Europe goes through gas pipelines. There are no gas pipelines from Qatar to Europe, so energy from the Gulf nation would have to be shipped to Europe in liquefied form.

“Natural gas liquefaction is energy-intensive, emits carbon and offsets the climate benefits” of using natural gas, Alshammari said. “It will be difficult for European policymakers as they set ambitious climate agendas and net zero targets.”

European nations will also need infrastructure to support such expeditions, which could take time to build, said Karen Young, senior fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington. Switching to Qatari gas may be easier for countries that already have this infrastructure, such as the UK and Spain, she said.

“The problem is that Europe is jumping into an LNG market that cannot meet its immediate needs for immense volumes,” said Nikos Tsafos of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington DC. “Of course, Qatar could send more gas to Europe, but it hasn’t done so yet despite incredibly high prices in Europe, which suggests that its flows to Asia may be stiffer than we expect. think so.”

What would this mean for Qatar-Russia relations?

Qatar is keen to portray its gas deals as commercial deals, and Al Kaabi said he was not in favor of mixing politics and energy.

“This is a commercial agreement between commercial entities,” Al Kaabi told Becky Anderson, referring to a potential partnership with German energy companies to supply gas. “From a business perspective, we don’t pick sides, we act like a business and we do our business,” he said.

Qatar would like to present it as a market-based move, “not a strategic alignment against Russia,” Mills said.

Other news from the Middle East

Blinken to meet Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi during Middle East tour

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will meet Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed in Morocco during a tour of the Middle East starting on Saturday. The two will discuss various issues including Iran, Yemen, Syria, global energy markets and Ethiopia.

  • Context: The Blinken encounter will be part of a tour through the region that includes stops in Israel, Ramallah, Morocco and Algeria. The trip is expected to be heavily dominated by talk of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Why is this important: Relations between the United States and the United Arab Emirates have been strained lately due to the reluctance of President Biden’s oil-producing allies in the Middle East to increase crude production to help bring down oil prices. . Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have also requested increased US assistance to help repel attacks by Iran-allied Houthi rebels in Yemen.

Iranian foreign minister says Riyadh sends mixed messages on normalization

Iran has received conflicting statements from Saudi Arabia on renewing bilateral ties, Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said Thursday at a press conference in Beirut.

  • Context: Iraq, which is brokering talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad, had said the fifth round of talks would begin on March 16. But Iran unilaterally suspended talks after Saudi Arabia executed 81 men, including some Shiites, earlier this month. Iran is predominantly Shia.
  • Why is this important: Saudi Arabia and Iran, which are locked in proxy conflicts across the Middle East, began direct talks last year to try to contain tensions, but the talks have made little progress. Any progress could contribute significantly to defusing tensions in the region.

Dubai leader’s ex-wife wins child custody

A senior British judge has given Princess Haya bint al-Hussein, the ex-wife of Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, sole responsibility for caring for their children. The judge concluded that the sheikh had inflicted “exorbitant” domestic violence on his ex-wife. A statement released on behalf of Sheikh Mohammed said he loved his children and would always provide for them. “He maintains his denial of the allegations made in this contentious proceeding,” he said.

  • Context: The dispute between the royal family began shortly after Haya fled to Britain in April 2019 after discovering she was having an affair with a bodyguard. In December, Sheikh Mohammed was ordered to pay Princess Haya more than $728 million in one of the largest divorce settlements ever handed down by a British court.
  • Why is this important: The decision ends a costly three-year custody battle at the High Court in London between Sheikh Mohammed and his estranged wife. The decisions do not appear to have affected relations between Britain, Dubai and the United Arab Emirates.

What is the trend

l: #Saudi_League

Saudi Arabia have qualified for the FIFA World Cup for the first time since 2006, meaning the Gulf state will be in their sixth final. Saudi Arabia drew 1-1 with China in the team’s penultimate group game on Thursday, but had already qualified for the 2022 tournament when Japan beat Australia in Sydney earlier today. Saudi Arabia and Japan have now booked their World Cup places as automatic qualifiers.

Regional: #psychological support

On Friday, Arab social media users called for psychological support and mental well-being, with many posting quotes or images aimed at boosting morale. In a 2021 mental health report that sampled responses from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, data showed that almost 40% of respondents aged 18 to 24 were either “in distress, be in difficulty”. Mental health awareness is slowly gaining traction in the Middle East, with several online platforms and helplines now offering help to those in need.

Oman: #Buy_from_Oman_shops

Omani social media users are calling on citizens to buy local produce and support the country’s many convenience stores ahead of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, where traditional sweets and fruits are common delicacies among worshippers. Many have posted photos of Oman’s colorful markets, saying it’s a national duty to support local traders. The influx of large supermarket chains into the country has seen footfall in smaller stores plummet over the past decade.

By Nadeen Ebrahim, CNN

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