Gas forum countries agree to 2011 summit; chooses Egypt minister for president

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DOHA: Leading gas exporting countries agreed Thursday to hold their first summit in Qatar next year, as they reiterated calls for gas prices to reflect parity with oil.

The announcement came after a one-day ministerial meeting of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum in the Qatari capital attended by the top three world producers — Russia, Iran and Qatar.

It gave no other details about the summit’s timing or agenda, but the ministers expressed concern in a GECF statement about low gas prices that "risk investment in new fields and gas infrastructure."

"I wish we could control gas prices (but) who can control the oil price or the gold price?" Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah Al-Attiyah told reporters after the meeting.

The ministers appointed Egypt’s Energy Minister Sameh Fahmy as the new president of the gas forum and decided to hold their next meeting in Sharm El-Sheikh on June 2 next year.

They vowed to work closely in a bid to develop a stable and transparent gas market.

But the energy minister of Russia, the world’s largest producer which sits on about 30 percent of global natural gas reserves, expressed opposition to any production restrictions to boost prices.

"Achieving a fair price for natural gas does not mean imposing restrictions on gas production. Seeking a fair price does not mean quotas on natural gas production," Sergei Shmatko told reporters.

"It’s much more important to develop mechanisms of cooperation between producers, transit countries and consumers."

The Russian minister also said GECF members would "not discuss the possibility of cutting gas supplies to the market in order to support prices."

"Under the current international gas trading system, the only adequate price-setting formula for gas is one that takes into account prices for diesel and fuel oil," he said.

Gas prices are determined either in long-term contracts between sellers and buyers, which some exporters index to oil, or on spot markets.

World gas demand dropped by 2.1 percent in 2009 due to the global economic recession, according to the International Energy Forum and International Gas Union, the joint organizers of a gas meeting in Doha earlier in the week.

A concluding IEF-IGU statement said the gas industry needs cumulative investments projected to amount to $7.1 trillion between 2010 and 2035.

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