DOHA - Energy-rich Qatar said Tuesday it plans to increase natural gas production by 30 percent over the next several years, as it faces pressure from its neighbours in a diplomatic crisis.
Saad Sherida Al-Kaabi, the head of Qatar Petroleum, told a press conference that the emirate intends to raise production to 100 million tonnes of natural gas a year by 2024.
"This new project will strengthen Qatar's leading position," Kaabi told reporters.
"We will remain the leader of LNG for a very long time."
Qatar is the world's biggest producer of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG).
Qatar's current production is up to 77 million tonnes per year. The expansion will increase output levels up to the equivalent of six million barrels of oil per day, Kaabi said.
The announcement comes as the Gulf faces its worst diplomatic crisis in years after Saudi Arabia and its allies imposed a sweeping embargo on Qatar last month.
Its timing is likely to be seen as as much political as economic.
On Monday, Qatar gave its response to a 13-point list of demands its neighbours made for lifting their sanctions.
Kaabi said Qatar wanted the production increase to be carried out through a joint venture with international companies.
But he added that the emirate would still go ahead with it even if Saudi Arabia and its allies made good on their threat to sanction any international firm working with Qatar if it failed to meet their demands.
"If there are no companies willing to work with us, we will do the 100 million tonnes," he said.