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Surge in gas exports fuels Qatari economy

By Nadim Kawach


Qatar’s economy surged ahead this year and is expected to keep that momentum in 2008 after recording double digit growth rates in the previous years because of strong oil prices and a sharp rise in its gas exports.

With its nominal gross domestic product leaping as fast as twice or triple its population growth, the tiny country in the Middle East has become one of the wealthiest nations on earth and is set to maintain that position in the years to come.

In nominal terms, Qatar has recorded the highest growth rate in the world over the past four years and its economy is expected to make similar leaps in the next few years as its LNG exports are steadily growing to turn the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member into the world’s number one LNG exporter by overtaking Indonesia. In 2004, its GDP rocketed by 34.8 per cent and growth remained as high as 33.8 per cent in 2005 and 24.2 per cent in 2006, according to Qatar’s State Planning Council, the country’s most authentic source of government information and data.

In 2007, the economy is projected to have swelled by at least 17 per cent and is forecast to grow by more than 16 per cent in 2008, according to the government-controlled Qatar National Bank (QNB), which cited the Planning Council. “Qatar’s economy will maintain its momentum of rapid growth in the years to come… Driving the economy forward is the ever expanding LNG sector and related industries, which continue to primarily lead the economy,” QNB said.

 “Qatar’s rapid economic growth will soon see it topping the list of the wealthy countries in the world, as measured by GDP per capita.

“In 2006, Qatar’s GDP per capita increased by 15.5 per cent to reach a record level of $57,350 (Dh210,474). QNB estimates show GDP per capita reaching as high as $68,467 by 2008.”

Besides oil exports of nearly 800,000 barrels per day, most of Qatar’s wealth comes from the mammoth North Field, the world’s largest non-associated gas basin, with estimated reserves of more than 900 trillion cubic feet.

Spreading over 6,000 square kilometres of the Gulf water, the offshore North Filed is more than half Qatar’s land area and eight times the area of nearby Bahrain. It was discovered nearly 30 years ago and only recently it was classified as the world’s largest single reservoir of proven non-associated gas.

The discovery of the Field has kicked off one of the largest hydrocarbon projects in the world and by the time the Field started to yield, Qatar began its climb to real wealth to become one of the richest nations.

The Field, which traverses Iran’s territorial waters, makes Qatar the third largest gas power in the world after Russia and Iran.

Discovered in 1971, the North Field’s reserves at the end of 2006 were officially put at around 910 trillion cubic feet (tcf), which is equivalent to about 164 billion barrels of oil.

These reserves would translate into 14.4 per cent of the world total gas resources and will be sufficient to support planned production of natural gas for more than 200 years, according to official Qatari projections. The state-owned Qatar Petroleum (QP) has initiated and developed two major LNG projects with foreign shareholders for the purpose of utilising the North Field gas for exports in the form of LNG. They are Qatargas and RasGas, which jointly produced nearly 25 million tonnes in 2006. Production was expected to peak at 29 million tonnes in 2007 and continue its climb to reach 77 million tonnes in 2012.

In 2006, the LNG exports fetched Qatar nearly $11 billion and the gas income is expected to surpass that from oil when all LNG projects are completed.

 “Qatar’s economy continues to grow from strength to strength and has become one of the fastest growing economies in the world,” QNB said.