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'Worst yet to come' for Europe energy shortages — Qatar minister

Qatar is developing North Field, raising its production to 126m tonnes annually by 2027

By AFP - May 23,2023 - Last updated at May 23,2023

In this file photo, Saad Sherida Al Kaabi, Qatar's energy minister and CEO of QatarEnergy, gives a press conference in Doha, on November 29, 2022 (AFP photo)

DOHA — Qatar's energy minister warned on Tuesday the "worst is yet to come" for Europe's oil and gas shortages, saying a warm winter had prevented greater difficulties in recent months.

Saad Al Kaabi and his Saudi counterpart Prince Abdulaziz Bin Salman said a lack of investment in oil and gas, as the world tries to transition to cleaner fuels to prevent global warming, risked causing an energy crunch.

"The only thing that saved humanity and Europe this year was a warm winter, and the slowdown in the economy," Qatari Energy Minister Saad Al Kaabi told the Qatar Economic Forum.

"If the economy starts churning back up in [2024] and you have just a regular winter, I think the worst is yet to come."

After Russia's invasion of Ukraine sparked an energy supply crisis, Europe dodged serious problems this past winter largely because of milder-than-expected temperatures.

But Kaabi and Prince Abdulaziz of Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporter, both told the conference further problems were looming.

"If [European leaders have] a proper plan and sit down with producers, and oil and gas companies are not demonised, reality will kick in and we'll have a sensible solution," Kaabi said.

Qatar has announced a series of major gas supply deals and is engaged in developing North Field, which contains the world's biggest natural gas deposits, raising its production to 126 million tonnes per year by 2027.

Demand is so great that all the expanded production for the North Field East and North Field South could be tied up in long-term deals by the end of the year, Kaabi said.

"There is a potential that we will run out of all the gas from the NFE and NFS by the end of the year, as far as long-term contracts," he said. "That's obviously a very big demand."

Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdulaziz also said Europe was "rescued by a gift of God" last winter, and said global energy security was at risk from "kicking the can policies".

"Energy security is being shackled. We're running out of capacity, because countries are not investing both in oil and gas," he said, mocking the push for cleaner fuels including green hydrogen, which is produced using renewable energy.

"People go around talking about blue, green, purple, pink hydrogen, but in the final analysis, who is going to be the offtaker?" he said, referring to the proposed buyer.

"What would be the price of hydrogen? We're not talking oil, we're not talking gas. We're talking about the so-called cleanest, greenest fuel of the future. And yet, you don't have the offtakers."

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