European natural gas buyers have been scrambling to secure alternative sources of supply since the imposition of economic sanctions on Russia. Their efforts include lobbying for more gas from Gulf states like the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
Qatar holds just over 13 percent of the world's natural gas reserves. This has turned the tiny Gulf state of fewer than three million people into a powerhouse in natural gas production, leading it to become the world's third-largest exporter of natural gas products.
Because Qatar has a massive natural gas industry, it has many clients all over the world. Khalid Al-Khater, a specialist in monetary policy and political economy from Qatar's capital of Doha, noted that Europe can't just receive more gas because it demands it. (Related: Europe will experience the worst energy crisis in history if it keeps turning away Russian oil and gas.)
"What is Qatar supposed to do? The LNG [liquefied natural gas] that Qatar produces is already contracted on a long-term basis to Asia and there is not much left to divert to Europe," said Al-Khater. "Qatar produces about 175 billion cubic meters [of LNG] … and Europe as a whole was importing about 150 billion cubic meters [of natural gas] from Russia. So what was Qatar supposed to do?"
Al-Khater noted that Europe needs to sign a long-term contract with the country if it wants to become a client for Qatari natural gas exports. Qatar can't just build the infrastructure it needs to supply Europe with sufficient quantities of gas if the continent is unwilling to make long-term commitments with Qatar.
"What is the point if you start building infrastructure … and then you have a customer … who all of a sudden, they change their mind? Then what do you do with this investment, and what do you do with the natural gas you have?" said Al-Khater. "Qatar is willing, Qatar has proven to be a reliable source of energy."
According to Qatari Minister of State for Energy Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, Europe's rush to secure new long-term suppliers of natural gas has put the continent in "huge competition" with heavy Asian importers who have long relied on the Middle East for their oil needs.
"Because of this pull of Europe wanting additional gas … Asian buyers are looking at the same thing and saying, 'Hold on, we need to be able to secure our future development needs,'" said Al-Kaabi.
The Qatari minister's recommendation is for Europe to go back to relying on Russian gas. He added that he couldn't see a future with zero gas flows from Russia to Europe. If this is the case, Al-Kaabi warned that he believes Europe's energy crisis could last up to 2025 or longer.
"You just don't have enough volume to bring [in] to replace that gas for the long term, unless you're saying 'I'm going to be building huge nuclear [plants], I'm going to allow coal, I'm going to burn fuel oils," said Al-Kaabi.
Learn more about Europe's energy crisis at NewEnergyReport.com.
Listen to Khalid Al-Khater's full interview on RT as he discusses Europe's energy crisis.