Gas exporting countries form charter, choose Doha as base

Uchenna Izundu
International Editor

LONDON, Dec. 30 -- The Gas Exporters Countries Forum (GECF)—a group of the world's largest natural gas suppliers)—has established a charter and chosen Doha as the home for its permanent secretariat, signaling Qatar's growing importance in the natural gas market.

The actions formalize the group, which was loosely established in 2001, and strengthen its determination to shape the global gas market, actions of concern to Western nations troubled about future gas prices and energy security.

Doha was selected over Algeria, Iran, and Russia as the headquarters for GECF.

"This is a significant event for the market," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told reporters. "Global stability, energy security, and the balance of interests between exporters, transit states, and consumers depend on the agreed position of the exporting countries."

'Not a cartel'
However, GECF, which met in Moscow on Dec. 22, has stressed that there are no plans to form a cartel along the lines of OPEC. Gas producers want to improve their relationship during this period of uncertainty and its members account for roughly two-thirds of the world's gas reserves.

Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said: "It's not a cartel. We are defending the interests of our countries, that's all."

Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko said, "I believe exporters can find the balance between competition and the harmonization of their energy policies."

Russia's Prime Minister, Vladimir Putin, told energy ministers at the GECF meeting that the era of cheap gas was coming to an end because operational costs were soaring.

The Moscow meeting was held amid growing concerns that Europe could suffer a shortfall in gas supplies from Gazprom due to a $2 billion debt dispute that the company has with Ukraine. Ukraine has since agreed to pay the debt.

Contact Uchenna Izundu at uchennai@pennwell.com

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