Qatar Charts Second Gas Boom as Saudis Try to Tighten the Noose

Qatar’s neighbors are trying to isolate it from the outside world by cutting off transport and diplomatic links. There’s one major area where their ostracism campaign is falling short: energy.

Qatar is the world’s fourth-biggest energy supplier and wealthiest country by per capita income. It pumps more oil and gas than Rosneft PJSC or Exxon Mobil Corp. and is the biggest producer and seller of liquefied natural gas. Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse the sheikhdom of funding terrorism and maintaining overly cordial ties with regional rival Iran. The allegations, which Qatar denies, pit Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest crude exporter and biggest supplier in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, against the group’s smallest Arab producer.

Now Qatar is doubling down on its main asset, the North Field, announcing plans to boost production at the world’s largest offshore gas deposit. Located in the Persian Gulf, the field straddles Qatar’s maritime border with Iran, which refers to its side of the reservoir as South Pars. Paris-based Total SA, which has stakes in Qatari LNG projects and will develop the nation’s Al Shaheen oil field, signed a contract on Monday to boost output at South Pars.

Qatar churned out 632,300 barrels a day of refined products including naphtha and jet fuel in 2016, mostly for export, according to OPEC’s annual report. The country exported 503,400 barrels a day of crude last year, mostly to Asia, and all of the 568,100 barrels a day of refined products it sold went to the region, the OPEC data show.

The country is also the single largest exporter of helium — a gas with uses ranging from balloons to magnetic resonance imaging equipment — and supplies about 30 percent of the global market, according to an IHS Markit report emailed on June 23. The regional dispute disrupted its normal export route for helium to buyers in Asia: by truck across the land border with Saudi Arabia and then to Dubai’s Jebel Ali port in the U.A.E. for onward shipment by sea. Qatar is now shipping helium on tankers, QP’s Al Kaabi said.

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