The oil-rich nation of Qatar wants out of OPEC.
In an announcement Monday, the country said it will leave the organization on January 1, 2019, because of the need for “technical and strategic” change, Reuters reports.
Qatar has been a member of OPEC since 1961 but has been the target of a Saudi-led political and economic boycott since June 2017. The boycotters accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and Iran, a regional rival of Saudi Arabia. Officials in Doha claim this is not behind their reason to leave OPEC, however, Minister of State for Energy Affairs Saad al-Kaabi made a less than veiled swipe at the boycotters during the announcement.
“We are not saying we are going to get out of the oil business but it is controlled by an organization managed by a country,” said al-Kaabi.
According to OPEC, Qatar produced only about 1% of OPEC member states’ total output of petroleum in October 2018, the most recent month for which there is data. But it is one of the world’s largest exporters of natural gas, responsible for meeting about a third of global demand.
Qatar’s departure isn’t likely to affect American consumers or imports all that much. In the year to September 2018, the U.S. only imported an average of 543,000 barrels per day of crude oil and other petroleum products. That’s compared to an average of 861,000 per day from Saudi Arabia. Moreover, OPEC only deals with crude oil, not the liquefied natural gas Qatar is better at producing, and the U.S. is a net exporter of liquefied natural gas anyway.
Likewise, Qatar’s departure isn’t likely to affect OPEC very much economically, but the departure of the 57-year veteran member is a symbolic loss. Qatar joined OPEC a year after the organization was founded.
OPEC members are scheduled to meet at the organization’s headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on Thursday.