Doha ends moratorium on North Field development in face of new competition from Tehran

Qatar’s development of its giant North Field, which began more than 20 years ago, propelled the small Gulf state into the position as the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas. It also provided Doha with the substantial wealth and political clout to stand independently from its Gulf Arab neighbors on geopo­litical issues, including interaction with Iran. Doha’s distinctive stance toward Tehran has contributed to the crisis with other Gulf states.  However, Qatar’s announcement that it has lifted a 12-year morato­rium on new projects in the North Field, which it shares with Iran, is setting the stage for fierce competi­tion between Doha and Tehran for global gas market share. That com­petition could strain diplomatic re­lations that the two Gulf countries carefully cultivated.  Iran is moving quickly to expand its own gas potential now that it is free from the most stringent inter­national sanctions and is expected to surpass Doha’s production lev­els from their shared gas field this year. Since the easing of sanctions in January 2016, Iran has prioritized developing its portion of the North Field, known as South Pars, be­cause it badly needs more gas to meet domestic power demand and for re-injection into ageing crude reservoirs. In November 2016, Iran signed a deal with French energy giant Total to develop its South Pars II project.

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