“The Qataris are not going to let a major European energy crisis go to waste,” said Jim Krane, an energy expert at Rice University. “They are signing a new long-term contract in Germany while desperation is still in the air.”
Qatar will supply two million tons of gas annually, giving Germany a degree of energy security. Even still, the Qatari gas represents a small fraction of what Russia has supplied to Germany and will not arrive until 2026. Germany is also looking for other producers, including the United Arab Emirates.
In addition to that deal, Qatar recently signed a contract to supply China with natural gas for 27 years – the longest contract on record. That contract, for about four million tons of gas per year, guarantees Qatar a market for much of the additional gas it expects to produce once it completes its new terminals.
Qatar already supplies China with a quarter of its gas. Along with several other smaller deals, the new contract will allow China to reduce its dependence on Russia in particular.
Saad Sherida al-Kaabi, Qatar’s energy minister and CEO of Qatar Energy, said in a statement that the deal “opens a new and exciting chapter” with Sinopec, the Chinese state-owned company that will buy Qatari gas.
The emerging partnership with China also has some geopolitical benefits. It gives Qatar more protection against a potentially hostile Iran, with which Qatar shares one of the largest gas fields in the world. Qatar has long relied on a US military base near Doha as a stronghold. But while some lawmakers in the United States are growing wary of foreign entanglements, experts say Qatar is seeking an additional buffer against Iran, which counts on China as a major energy customer and geopolitical partner.
Throughout history, Qatar has sought protection from foreign powers and at various times came under the rule of Portugal, the Ottoman Empire, and Britain. Its gas wealth has given it greater independence and security, but larger neighbors still pose a threat.
“Safety is of paramount importance to Qatar,” said Alex Munton, a global gas and liquefied natural gas expert at Rapidan Energy Group, a consulting firm. “Qatar is well aware of its vulnerabilities and its gas source is a way to improve its security.”