Jan. 18 (Bloomberg) -- Qatar appointed Mohammed Saleh Al Sada as energy minister, replacing Abdullah Al-Attiyah, an architect of the Persian Gulf nation’s transformation into the world’s biggest exporter of liquefied natural gas.
Al Sada, minister of state for energy and industry since 2007, was named to his new post by Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the government-run Qatar News Agency said today. The change came as the Persian Gulf sheikhdom, holder of the third-largest gas reserves, prepared to begin operating the last of 14 liquefied gas plants, a milestone marking an increase in its capacity for making the fuel by 15 percent to 77 million tons a year.
Attiyah will retain his position of deputy prime minister and will become the head of the Emir’s court, called the Diwan.
Al Sada’s appointment may be a reward for his having been “a good administrator,” Samuel Ciszuk, senior Middle East energy analyst at IHS Global Insight in London, said in a phone interview today. “The energy portfolio will change because there won’t be the same brilliant growth. It will focus more on administrating what they have rather than growing and formulating new policies.”
Al Sada earned a Ph.D. from the University of Manchester’s Institute of Science and Technology in the U.K. and a bachelor’s degree in Marine Science and Geology from Qatar University, according to the energy and industry ministry’s website. Before becoming a minister of state, he worked as managing director of RasGas Co. Ltd., one of Qatar’s two state-owned production companies for liquefied gas, or LNG.
He also is vice chairman of Qatar Chemical Co., a petrochemicals manufacturer owned 51 percent by state-run Qatar Petroleum and 49 percent by Chevron Phillips Chemical International Qatar Holdings LLC, the ministry website said.
Attiyah, in his 19 years as minister of energy and industry, oversaw Qatar’s development from a country reliant on oil exports averaging 480,000 barrels a day in 1992 into the world’s largest exporter of LNG, gas chilled to liquid form for easy transport by ship. He was born in 1952 and started his career in the Ministry of Finance & Petroleum in 1972.
“Al-Attiyah’s been a powerhouse figure,” said Bill Farren-Price, chief executive officer of Winchester, U.K.-based consultant Petroleum Policy Intelligence. “He masterminded the whole of Qatar’s downstream expansion. People think of his achievements in the LNG sector as being really substantial. It’ll be hard for his successor to follow all that.”
Attiyah’s ‘New Challenge’
“It’s a new challenge,” al-Attiyah said today of his new position. He spoke before attending a dinner with the visiting Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, declining to comment further.
Qatar exported its first LNG cargo in 1996. Qatar Liquefied Gas Co. plans to bring its seventh and final liquefaction plant into operation early this year. Qatar Liquefied Gas, known as QatarGas, is a venture between Qatar Petroleum, Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, Total SA and Royal Dutch Shell Shell Plc.
Ras Laffan Liquefied Natural Gas Co. started its seventh and final LNG production unit last year. RasGas, as this company is known, is a venture between Qatar Petroleum and Exxon Mobil.
Qatar’s development of LNG exports has driven its economic growth, which averaged 17 percent over the past five years, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Today the peninsular neighbor to Saudi Arabia has the world’s second-highest standard of living behind Liechtenstein, according to the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency World Factbook. The country is spending billions to develop its tourism industry and transport links before it hosts the soccer World Cup in 2022.
Attiyah’s new role in the Emir’s court may reflect his achievements as energy minister, Ciszuk said.
“It is a clear promotion,” the analyst said. “He goes to become one of the trusted advisers. The head of the Emiri Diwan is a very important position in the Gulf Cooperation Council states.”
Al Sada may not speak as freely as Attiyah did about the inner workings of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, Ciszuk said. Attiyah was the group’s longest-serving minister.
“What could be appreciated with Attiyah is he came from a country like Qatar, which although closer to Saudi in OPEC policy, didn’t have the same interests,” he said. “Attiyah has been at OPEC for such a long time, built up a reputation and been able to act as a doyen of OPEC.”
The nation of 1.6 million people is the second-smallest crude producer in OPEC ahead of Ecuador. OPEC will meet next in June unless the rise in oil prices to near $100 a barrel prompts the organization to meet earlier.
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