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INTERVIEW - China's thirst for LNG unquenched - Qatar

MILFORD HAVEN, Wales (Reuters) - China’s and India’s thirst for liquefied natural gas (LNG) is compensating for lower demand elsewhere during the economic crisis and China is the new centre of the global market, Qatari Energy Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah said on Tuesday.

Qatar's Oil Minister Abdullah al-Attiyah talks to journalists at the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) headquarters in Vienna March 15, 2009. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader

The energy minister of the world’s largest LNG producer said rising demand from China in particular was making up for lower consumption from established big LNG consumers Japan and Korea.

“China’s needs are still not satisfied. They need huge amounts of gas. So now China is the centre today of the new LNG compass,” Attiyah said in an interview with Reuters at the opening of Europe’s biggest LNG import terminal in south Wales.

“It is sure that 2009 is a very difficult year for the industrial nations but we believe that growth will come back again,” he said.

“Asian demand for LNG now, in other parts such as India and China, its becoming very high.”

Attiyah, who is also Qatar’s deputy prime minister, said that despite the economic crisis hitting gas demand in parts of the world, Qatar would not delay any new production projects and remained on track to reach its target of producing 77 million tonnes of the super cooled gas a year next year.

“All our projects are online, so we never delay any project for LNG,” he said.

OIL PRICES

Qatar, which is a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) but is a much bigger player in the global gas market, has no plans to change the way it sells its gas despite oil prices tumbling from $147 a barrel last July .

“Every (gas) market has its own marketing,” he said, mentioning the U.S. cash gas market Henry Hub as an example.

“If it’s a liquid market like the Henry Hub or even parity with oil as in Asia, these are the concepts that we are using now.”

The minister earlier told Reuters it was too early to predict whether OPEC would decide to cut crude output at its next meeting in late May.

He added that it was hard to say whether the recent rise in crude prices , which have climbed to near $60 a barrel from about $47 on April 21, was due to a real increase in demand or speculation.

“We will study it during the OPEC meeting and we will see,” he said.

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