Russian gas inevitable for Europe, says Qatar
According to Qatar's Energy Minister, Russian gas will eventually return to Europe.
At the Atlantic Council conference last Saturday, the Qatari Energy Minister stressed the inevitability of Russian gas for Europe. Saad Al-Kaabi explained that gas prices will remain unstable in the next years given the increase in demand and the sharp shortage of supply.
Al-Kaabi also believes that despite the efforts to diversify supplies, European countries will eventually return to Russian gas due to the lack of alternative sources.
“Russian gas will return to Europe when Russia and the EU somehow manage to resolve the situation, although the [European] countries will likely make their sources of hydrocarbons more diverse and stop relying on Russia 100%... But Russian gas is going back, in my view, to Europe, and it will be a great benefit for the gas sector and the entire European market, and help stabilize prices,” he said.
Gas prices in Europe soared last year following the war in Ukraine. The supply of gas decreased sharply after Western countries sanctioned Russia's gas exports. Until then, Russia had been the largest gas supplier for the European market.
The sanctions on Russia shook the market by factoring out the main supplier. Prices of gas spiked and subsequently, inflation peaked, leaving European countries scrounging for alternative suppliers.
Read more: Sanctions disrupting supplies of Russian gas: Kremlin
The Gulf states, Qatar most prominently, were sought to bridge the massive gap in the market caused by Russia's exclusion and were prompted by the Europeans to increase their capacity of gas production and liquefication in response to the global surge of demand for gas.
At a signing ceremony in Doha last October, Qatari Energy Minister Saad Al-Kaabi announced that Shell will acquire a 9.375% stake in North Field South, which will increase Qatar's LNG (liquified natural gas) output capacity by 16 million tons per year. TotalEnergies SE had also joined the project in September, with a 9.375% stake.
Read more: Shell to divert Russian oil profits to 'Ukraine aid'
Additionally, last November, Qatar agreed to supply Germany with two million tons of LNG a year for at least 15 years, as Germany attempts to replace all energy imports by mid-2024 as part of a Russia isolation policy.
It's worth mentioning that German MP Kaus Ernst commented on the Qatar-Germany LNG agreement saying that the deal does not offer real alternatives to Russian gas, arguing that the sanctions against Russia are what ruined Germany and caused its energy crisis alongside the rest of Europe's.
Die Bundesregierung feiert sich für ihren LNG-Deal mit Katar und prahlt mit großen Zahlen. In Wahrheit entsprechen diese zwei Millionen Tonnen LNG drei Prozent des deutschen Gasverbrauchs. Echte Alternativen zu russischem Gas gibt's immer noch nicht!https://t.co/5d3yYzclQi— Klaus Ernst (@ernst_klaus) November 29, 2022
Despite the massive profits which Qatar has accumulated from this particular position in the oil market, Doha has consistently expressed its concerns over the inefficiency of this strategy which aims to factor out Russia from the oil market.
In early February when the war was still brewing, the Qatari Energy Minister warned that "the volume of gas needed by the EU cannot be replaced by anyone unilaterally without disturbing supplies to other regions around the world."
Read more: EU gas demands cannot be met unilaterally: Qatar
One year later at the Atlantic Council in Abu Dhabi, the Qatari Minister reemphasized this point, saying, “It’s going to be a volatile situation for some time to come. We’re bringing a lot of gas to the market, but it’s not enough… Luckily [the EU] hasn’t had a very high demand for gas due to the warmer weather. The issue is what’s going to happen when they want to replenish their storages this coming year.”
The surge in gas prices in Europe was mitigated amid increased imports of liquefied natural gas from countries, including Qatar. However, prices remain unprecedently high, and they are expected to surge again when China remobilizes its industries after they suspended their work over the pandemic.