Qatar plans to leave OPEC to focus on natural gas

Qatar announced Monday that it will withdraw from OPEC in January to focus on liquified natural gas (LNG).

“A lot of people will politicize it,” said Qatar's Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi, Reuters reports. “I assure you this purely was a decision on what’s right for Qatar long term. It’s a strategy decision.”

Al-Kaabi said Qatar will increase its production of both LNG and oil. It will boost LNG exports from 77 million tons of gas annually to 110 million tons and oil production capabilities from 4.8 million barrels to 6.5 million.

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"We are not saying we are going to get out of the oil business, but it is controlled by an organization managed by a country," al-Kaabi said, in an apparent shot at Saudi Arabia, though he mentioned no country by name, according to Reuters.

He said Qatar will focus on LNG because it is not practical "to put efforts and resources and time in an organization that we are a very small player in and I don’t have a say in what happens."

Currently, Qatar produces only 600,000 barrels of crude oil a day, about 2 percent of OPEC's supply, but is the largest exporter of LNG in the world.

Though OPEC only regulates oil production, spikes in the LNG industry impact the crude market and can undercut prices.

In November, Saudi Energy Minister Khalid Al-Falih said the cartel and its allies would cut crude supplies by as much as 1 million barrels of oil a day.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Memo: Ayers decision casts harsh light on Trump NASA offers to show Stephen Curry evidence from moon landings Freedom Caucus calls on leadership to include wall funding, end to 'catch and release' in funding bill MORE has frequently criticized OPEC and Saudi Arabia for its plans to cut production as oil prices rise. 

Al-Falih said in November that OPEC would stick to its plans, despite Trump's urging.

"The consensus among all members is that we need to do whatever it takes to balance the market," Al-Falih said, according to CNN. "If that means trimming supply by a million [barrels per day], we will do it."

Still, Saudi Arabia raised oil production to an all-time high last month, as Trump pushed for increased production to drop prices.