Qatar is to leave the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) next month, the Gulf emirate's new Energy Minister Saad al-Kaabi announced on Monday.
"Qatar has decided to withdraw its membership from OPEC effective January 2019," Kaabi said at a press conference in Doha.
According to the minister, the emirate will no longer remain committed to OPEC agreements.
"The withdrawal decision reflects Qatar's desire to focus its efforts on plans to develop and increase its natural gas production from 77 million tons per year to 110 million tons in the coming years," Kaabi said.
"Qatar is proud in its international standing at the forefront of natural gas producers, and as the biggest exporter of [the liquid natural gas] LNG — the cleanest fossil fuel, which has given Qatar a strong and resilient economy."
Doha, one of the smallest oil producers in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, is locked in a diplomatic dispute with the group's de facto leader Saudi Arabia but said the move to leave OPEC was not driven by politics.
"A lot of people will politicize it," Al-Kaabi said. "I assure you this purely was a decision on what's right for Qatar long term. It's a strategy decision."
"We will make a big splash in the oil and gas business soon," he said.
He said Qatar Petroleum planned to raise its production capability from 4.8 million barrels oil equivalent per day to 6.5 million barrels in the next decade. Doha also plans to build the largest ethane cracker in the Middle East.
He added that OPEC was informed of the decision on Monday ahead of the announcement.
Qatar has oil output of only 600,000 barrels per day (bpd), compared with the 11 million bpd produced by Saudi Arabia, the group's biggest oil producer and world's biggest exporter.
But Doha is an influential player in the global LNG market with annual production of 77 million tons per year, based on its huge reserves of the fuel in the Gulf.
OPEC and its allies, including Russia, are expected to agree on a supply cut at this week's meeting in a bid to support crude prices that have slid almost 30 percent since October.
Oil prices surged about 5 percent on Monday after the United States and China agreed to a 90-day truce in their trade war, but Brent crude is still trading at around $62 a barrel, well below October's peak of more than $86.
Qatar, a country of 2.6 million people, discovered the offshore North Field in 1971, the same year it became independent.
It took years for engineers to discover the gas field's vast reserves, which shot Qatar to No. 3 in world rankings, behind Russia and Iran, with which it shares the North Field.
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