Qatar announced plans to pull out of OPEC just days prior to a crucial meeting between the influential oil cartel and its allies. Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Qatar’s Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi said the country will withdraw from OPEC as of January 1, 2019, which ends a membership lasting more than 57 years. Although Qatar is one of OPEC’s smallest oil producers, it is one of the world’s largest producers of liquefied natural gas (LNG).
According to CNBC, Qatar’s decision comes after the company reviewed new ways to improve its global standing and further plan its long-term strategy. The country’s energy minister claims the move represents a “technical and strategic” change, and was not, as Reuters reported, “politically motivated.” In addition, Qatar’s Al-Kaabi states the decision was not linked to political and economic boycott of Doha.
OPEC kingpin Saudia Arabia, in addition to three Arab states, cut trade and transport ties with Qatar since June of 2017, accusing the country of “supporting terrorism and their regional rival, Iran.” Qatar denies these claims, adding the boycott impedes its national sovereignty.
“The decision by Qatar to withdraw from OPEC does come as a surprise, but is unlikely to have a significant impact on the oil market,” Peter Kiernan, lead energy analyst at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told CNBC via email Monday.
“The Gulf state is one of the smaller producers in the group, with crude oil output of around 600,000 barrels per day, much smaller than its neighbors in the region.”