Europe’s proposal to cap gas prices ‘hypocritical’: Qatar’s energy minister

Qatar was approached by several European countries in an effort to secure their energy supply. 

Europe’s proposal to cap gas prices is “hypocritical” as it goes against anti-competition rules designed to stop interference in the market, Qatar’s energy minister Saad Al-Kaabi told Bloomberg on Sunday.

“If you’re trying to fix the market, you’re going against all the anti-competition laws that the Europeans were trying to put on sellers and now they’re doing it themselves,” said Al-Kaabi, noting that a free market is the best solution.

Seeking to mitigate the rising prices in light of the current energy crisis ahead of the winter season, the European Commission is planning on proposing a cap on gas prices. 

However, Al-Kaabi, also QatarEnergy’s CEO, said the move would be “hypocritical”, given that the move also discourages investment in gas production.

Last month, the Group of Seven (G7) also agreed to place a price cap on Russian oil sales by 5 December, warning importers that paying above the capped price will not be covered by western insurers.

The G7 comprises the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, France, Germany, Canada, and Japan.

While Europe has been grappling with an energy crisis in light of the Covid-19 outbreak, the war between Russia and Ukraine only exacerbated the situation in the market.

The region previously received 40% of its gas supplies from Moscow and almost a third of the shipments pass through Ukraine. However, supplies dropped amid sanctions against Russia following its invasion of its neighbour. 

As a key liquified natural gas (LNG) producer, Qatar was approached by several European countries in an effort to secure their energy supply. 

However, the Gulf state repeatedly stressed that it cannot fulfil the gap in supply alone while expressing its willingness to support its international partners in times of need.

Commenting on potential deals, Al-Kaabi told Bloomberg that QatarEnergy is still in talks with German companies RWE AG and Uniper SE for LNG supplies.

Responding to a question over the apparent hesitance by the European buyers to sign a long-term contract with Qatar, Al-Kaabi said that the issue is not about the duration but rather the price the companies would be willing to pay.

Qatar already has long-term contracts with its Asian buyers, with questions over diverting shipments being repeatedly addressed by the media. 

Al-Kaabi said the Gulf state will divert shipments when the time is appropriate, noting that “it was a promise” that the energy giant “made for a certain duration.”

Earlier this year, the EU ended a 2018 antitrust investigation into QatarEnergy’s companies and the impact on “the free flow of gas” within the European Economic Area (EEA). 

In turn, Qatar had halted its projects in France and Belgium.

While the decision came as no surprise given that Europe is scrambling to secure much-needed energy supplies, officials insisted that the move is not related to recent geopolitical tensions.

QatarEnergy is already working its way to lead global LNG production through its multibillion North Field Expansion project, the largest of its kind on a global scale. 

The project is expected to increase Qatar’s LNG production capacity to 126 million tonnes per annum by 2027.

Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said last week that the expansion of its mega gas field “will have a significant impact on mitigating the repercussions” of the current energy crisis “in the short and medium terms.”

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