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Ukraine showdown casts shadow over Qatar gas summit

DOHA (AFP) – Major natural gas exporting nations on Sunday began meetings in Doha to discuss how to meet skyrocketing world demand as tensions surrounding Ukraine stoke fears in Europe about gas supplies from Russia.

Experts from the 11-member Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) started meetings in the Qatari capital, ahead of ministerial level talks yesterday and heads of state and government today.

Member states include Russia, Qatar, Iran, Libya, Algeria and Nigeria – who together account for more than 70 per cent of proven gas reserves – and the meetings opened as Ukraine complained of “new provocative shelling” on the frontline between its forces and Russian-backed rebels.

With Europe’s fears growing that Russia will invade Ukraine, natural gas prices are at close to double the level they traded at in late 2020.

European nations are frantically seeking alternative supplies to Russian gas, which feeds 40 per cent of the European market.

The Ras Laffan Industrial City, Qatar’s principal site for production of liquefied natural gas and gas-to-liquid, administrated by Qatar Petroleum, north of Doha. PHOTO: AFP

They have looked in large part to Australia and the United States, which are not forum members, and Qatar, but most producing nations said they have little spare capacity to fill the gap.

Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani is set to meet with leaders from fellow GECF member states today. Russian President Vladimir Putin was invited but is not expected in Doha.

But Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi, who has rarely left his country since taking office, Algeria’s President Abdelmadjid Tebboune and Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Keith Rowley are all due to take part in the summit.

GECF member states are focussing on ways to increase output in the medium term. Qatar, a major producer of liquefied natural gas, has embarked on a huge project to increase production by 50 per cent by 2027.