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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Gas OPEC Idea Looms In Qatar

DOHA, Qatar -- Big gas powers are to meet in Qatar on Monday, where they are expected to broach issues ranging from soaring production costs to whether they could ever set up a price-fixing cartel.

Speculation that the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, or GECF, is seeking to form the gas equivalent of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries has been repeatedly knocked down and the subject is not on the meeting's official agenda.

But that does not mean it will not be discussed.

Algerian Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil has said the idea of a gas OPEC was not initiated by the producer countries and had grown out of the fears of consumer nations.

"It is the consumers really that deep in their sub-consciousness want to have a monster," Khelil said, although he added that the GECF could consider the issue. "We may end up forming a group of experts in the area to think about it and to keep thinking about it."

Russian officials have been among those to reject the gas OPEC idea, although the denials are not unanimous.

"We believe that any instrument which can play a certain market role and defend the interest of producers will be useful. We as producers should have a chance to set up a properly functioning institution," said Stanislav Tsygankov, head of external relations at Gazprom.

The GECF was founded in 2001 and has held annual ministerial meetings, with the exception of last year.

It has been considered much less important than OPEC, although the rising share of gas in the energy mix and growing concern about security of supply has raised the group's profile.