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Qatar becomes world's top natural gas exporter, surpassing US

US and Qatar set to compete to dominate the world's future LNG market, as Europe steers away from Russian gas
An undated handout picture shows a gas platform at Al-Shamal gas field north of Qatar (AFP)

Qatar has become the world's top natural gas exporter, surpassing the United States, as demand for heating fuel in North America and Europe decreased with the winter's end.

According to ship-tracking data compiled by Bloomberg, Qatar's exports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) surpassed 7.4 million metric tons in April, and the US and Qatar are set to compete to dominate the world's LNG market in the future.

Demand for fuel and gas has increased after Russian troops invaded Ukraine in February and low temperatures hit European cities. As a result, the prices of petrol and fuel rose. 

In 2021, the European Union and the United Kingdom had imported 70 percent of their LNG needs from the US (26 percent), Qatar (24 percent) and Russia (20 percent), according to figures by Cedigaz, a natural gas information group.

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Doha was under immense pressure to help Europe steer away from dependency on Russian gas, but said it was locked with years-long LNG contracts with Asian countries and that replacing Russian gas was impossible in the short term.

However, the country plans to complete a colossal export project by the end of this decade, which will enhance its place as the Middle East's number one gas supplier.

It shares with Iran the world's largest gas field in the Gulf, the North Field, and exports the super-chilled natural gas from its port of Ras Laffan, north of Doha.

In 2022, it has shipped $100bn-worth of energy products to Asian and European markets, and its economy is expected to grow 4.4 percent this year.

In February, its neighbour, Saudi Arabia, discovered natural gas fields in four regions.

According to Bloomberg, Qatar's potential to replace the Russian gas export to Europe will lend the tiny country of 2.8 million population an influential position in world affairs.

The country will host the Fifa World Cup 2022 in November and December, the first Muslim and Arab country to do so.

"As the World Cup showcases its ability to acquire international prestige, Qatar's status as a much-coveted gas supplier is promising to turn the tiny peninsula into the bigger player it always aspired to be," wrote Paul Wallace and Simone Foxman in Bloomberg.