Opec-like forum for gas firms

City A.M. Reporter
The club of major gas producers should operate like oil exporters&rsquo; group OPEC in defending its members against low gas prices, Algerian energy and mines minister Chakib Khelil said yesterday.<br /><br />Gas importing countries, particularly in Europe, have expressed concern the Gas Exporting Countries Forum could drive up prices by acquiring the same influence over gas markets that OPEC has over world crude prices. &ldquo;The Gas Exporting Countries Forum should function like OPEC in its capacity as an organisation which would defend the economic interests (of its members),&rdquo; Algerian news agency APS quoted Khelil as saying.<br /><br />He said gas prices today were low and called on &ldquo;the member countries to reach agreement on a strategy for obtaining a fair price for gas&rdquo;, the agency reported.<br /><br />Khelil did not go into detail about what this strategy would involve, saying only that members of the forum had not been sharing with each other data about their gas supply contracts.<br /><br />&ldquo;So far this objective has not been reached... Each member country is keeping its long-term gas sales contracts very confidential, no one wants to reveal at what price he is selling his gas to the market,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />The 11 member states of the gas exporters&rsquo; forum control more than three quarters of the world's gas reserves and include Qatar, Russia, Iran and Algeria. The group is to hold its next meeting in Qatar on 9 December.<br /><br />Some industry analysts have described it as the &ldquo;gas OPEC&rdquo;. But the way most gas is sold -- through long-term contracts -- limits the extent to which it can mimic OPEC&rsquo;s practice of coordinating production levels among its members.