Major energy corporations court Qatar despite blockade
The three largest energy corporations in the West are lobbying Qatar to take part in a huge expansion of gas production, handing the Gulf state a boost amid a Saudi-led blockade.
On Tuesday, the CEO of Qatar Petroleum announced that the company has decided to raise its Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) production from 77 million tons per year to 100 million tons.
The chief executives of ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, and France's Total all met the emir, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, in Qatar before Doha announced the plan.
The CEOs had expressed interest in helping Qatar with its ambition of producing 100 million tonnes of LNG annually – equal to a third of current global supplies – over the next five to seven years, Reuters reported.
All three companies have large investments in both sides of the diplomatic dispute and are keen to remain neutral after Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, and Egypt severed ties.
Chief executives Darren Woods of Exxon and Ben van Beurden of Shell both met the Qatari emir after the four Arab countries imposed the sanctions, with Total chief Patrick Pouyanne also visiting Doha in recent weeks.
Shell's Van Beurden was among the first foreign company leaders to visit Qatar after the blockade was announced, followed days later by a deal in which Qatar would provide the company with 1.1 million tonnes of LNG annually for five years starting in 2019.
Industry sources close to the talks also said that Exxon CEO Woods "was very keen to join the new gas capacity expansion and expressed willingness to invest", Reuters reported.
Woods replaced Rex Tillerson, under whom Exxon helped to build Qatar's LNG industry, until he left to become US Secretary of State.
Exxon will be the largest foreign investor in Qatar in 2017, with most money going into LNG facilities, representing around seven percent of its global portfolio, according to Reuters.
Qatar's rise as a regional player has been powered by energy sales since the late 1990s and the energy giants' interest in LNG expansion underlines its economic power amid the ongoing diplomatic crisis.
Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Egypt and Bahrain cut diplomatic ties with Qatar in June, later issuing a list of demands, which Qatar has rejected.