TEHRAN, Nov. 16 (Shana) – Some 15 years have passed since the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) was founded. The forum has held gatherings in its member states and it did not have any specific secretariat from the very beginning.
The first ministerial meeting of GECF was held in Tehran in May 2001. Called by Iran’s then minister of petroleum, the GECF ministerial meeting was attended by high ranking representatives of Algeria, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Turkmenistan and Norway as observer.
During this first ministerial meeting, it was agreed that the objectives of the forum will be to foster the concept of mutuality of interests by favoring dialogue among producers, between producers and consumers and between governments and energy-related industries to provide a platform for research and exchange of views, and to promote a stable and transparent energy market. These and other goals were outlined in a document prepared by the expert meeting and approved by the ministers as a mandate of the GECF.
Databank in 2002
Between 2001 and 2003, the basic structure of the forum consisted of a ministerial meeting as the highest decision-making instance and an expert meeting as a technical advisor. The ministerial meetings were held annually: In 2002 in Algeria and in 2003 in Qatar. The 2nd ministerial meeting in Algiers emphasized the importance of cooperation between producers and consumers to ensure the development of gas industry. Furthermore, the expert meeting was instructed to develop a database of gas projects and contracts terms and conditions and studies such as new gas utilizations and associated costs.
The 15 countries which met in Doha for the 3rd ministerial meeting in 2003 agreed to create a liaison office as a focal point for the gathering of data and for the supervision of GECF projects. This event was also an opportunity to follow up on studies on new gas utilizations, stress the relevance to develop a world supply and demand gas model and evaluate gas pricing.
During the 2004-2006 period, the forum advanced steadily towards the goal of developing a more integrated discussion platform; the 4th ministerial meeting in Cairo, Egypt, and the 5th ministerial meeting in Port-of-Spain. Trinidad and Tobago created the executive bureau (which would transform later into the executive board) and consolidated the liaison office.
In Cairo, the ministers highlighted the importance of fair prices for natural gas and the need for joint investments and research between member countries as a means to enhance cooperation, as well as the necessity to exchange information and data.
The 2005 meeting in Trinidad and Tobago was an occasion to agree on the general framework, the objectives and the structure of GECF (ministerial meeting, executive bureau, experts meeting and liaison office). Furthermore, the ministers decided to start developing the world supply and demand gas model. The ministerial meeting was not held in 2006, but the executive board met in Qatar to continue working on the relevant subjects of the GECF.
GECF Turns Global
Between 2007 and 2008, the definite establishment of the GECF institutional base took place. In this regard, during the 6th ministerial meeting held in 2007 in Doha, the achievements of the previous meetings were reviewed and it was recommended to develop a statute for the forum, to expand the liaison office so that it could become the secretariat of the organization and to draft its internal regulations. To this end, the ministers created the high level committee, which held meetings in Qatar, Egypt, Iran, Venezuela and Russia throughout 2007 and 2008.
The ministers held in December 2008 in Moscow one of their most important meetings, alongside with their 1st meeting in Iran. The 7th ministerial meeting established the Gas Exporting Countries Forum as an international intergovernmental body with the approval and signing of the agreement on the functioning of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum and the statute of the GECF.
The GECF agreement and statute were signed by the ministers of the current member states of the forum: Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Netherlands and Norway were accepted as observer members. The city of Doha was selected as the headquarters of the forum. Furthermore, the ministers highly praised the findings of the study on gas prices, which was called for at the 6th ministerial meeting, and discussed the latest developments and trends in the gas industry.
Between 2009 and 2011, the forum witnessed progress in the consolidation of its internal structure and further discussions on key aspects of the gas industry. During the 8th ministerial meeting in Qatar, the budget for the organization for 2009 was approved and provisional authorities were appointed.
GECF 1st Secretary General
The signing of the GECF Host Country Agreement between Qatar and the GECF, the inclusion of the Netherlands as an observer member, the appointment as per the Statute of the authorities for 2010 and the election and appointment of Leonid Bokhanovskiy as the secretary general of the GECF were the main outcomes of the 9th ministerial meeting which was held in Doha in December 2009.
The first secretary general of the GECF took office in January 2010 and set as his main duty to launch secretariat activity in Doha, to develop a forum for the GECF member countries to exchange information and to start in-house research activity by developing research and analytical capabilities. The registration of the GECF with the UN and the meeting with the UN secretary general and the GECF secretary general was a truly important step forward to worldwide recognition of the GECF and open doors to closer dialogue between the two organizations.
Cooperation with international energy organizations is one of the priorities in the GECF’s agenda. To that effect, the secretariat has maintained working contacts with OPEC, IEF and IEA as well as with major independent and governmental energy research institutes.
In 2010, the GECF held two ministerial meetings – in Oran, Algeria in April and in Doha in December. The 10th ministerial meeting was an opportunity to exchange views on the latest and mid-term developments in the natural gas market, assess their impact on the GECF countries and provide guidelines for the newly established secretariat.
The ministers agreed that ensuring adequate and reliable supplies of gas at prices reflecting parity with oil prices is a challenge, considering that natural gas is an essential part of the fuel mix and plays an important role in meeting the global need for an environmental friendly energy source.
They also supported the enhancement of energy security by means of cross investments and technological exchange without unjustified barriers (especially those related to carbon taxation) between consumers and producers based on their growing mutual interdependence. Therefore, the ministers encouraged a model in which a gas consumer may participate in upstream and gas infrastructure development projects in a producer-exporter country, while a gas exporter may invest in mid and downstream networks and other gas facilities on a consumer side.
The acknowledgement of the relevant results of the report on the “International Gas Market Outlook to 2015” presented by Algeria, the assessment of the possibility of organizing a future gas summit of the GECF and sending the invitation to other gas exporting states that support the GECF statute to become part of the organization as members and observer members were part of the decisions of the 10th ministerial meeting.
Chairman and Secretary General
At the 11th meeting, the ministers also agreed on the creation of steering committee to study the evolution of gas market and the outcomes of the global gas model. They also overviewed the latest developments in the international gas market and their impact in the member countries.
During the 12th ministerial meeting held in June in Cairo, the ministers emphasized the importance of dialogue between producers and consumers for the purpose of achieving a stable gas market, the timeline of a mechanism to achieve balanced and fair gas prices for both parties, and the necessary cooperation between producers and consumers to support and sustain the required investments to develop the gas reserves in the producing countries and exchange of knowhow and technologies in that regard.
Preparations for holding the first GECF summit stayed as one of the main topics of discussion for the 13th ministerial meeting held in Doha in November 2011. During this meeting, the ministers approved the program of work and budget of the GECF for 2012. The ministers welcomed Oman as a new member of the GECF and re-elected Leonid Bokhanovskiy as the GECF secretary general for 2012-2013.
The 1st GECF summit was held in Doha in December 2011 and was unprecedented in terms of the level of participants and the scope of its concerns. The summit was attended by heads of state and government from Algeria, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia, Russia and Oman. Kazakhstan, Norway, the Netherlands and Venezuela were represented by ministers of energy. The participants stressed that the GECF is actively working towards elaborating best ways to meet the actual challenges of the regional and global gas markets, harmonizing in the long run the relations between gas producers and consumers, launching an adequate dialogue between them.
Another important issue under discussion was the definition of the position and role of natural gas in the construction of the low-carbon economy, the pairing of gas with the development of alternative energy and the promotion of its environmental advantages.
Between 2009 and 2012, the Executive Board (EB) met 10 times with concrete and fruitful results related to the development of the internal structure of the forum and the strengthening of its capabilities. Furthermore, several meetings of working groups or specialized bodies created in accordance with the statute have contributed in fulfilling the mandates of the ministers in such areas as long-term strategy, 5-year working plan for the secretariat, data reporting mechanism and gas summit.
In 2012, the forum was fully engaged in research and gas market modeling activity. Currently the secretariat is preparing forecasts for the market developments for the short-term on a regular basis and conducting several studies and research projects.
15th Ministerial Meeting in Tehran
The second summit of the GECF was held in Moscow in July 2013. Hosted by President Vladimir Putin, the summit was attended by Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela as well as Iraq, the Netherlands, and Norway as observers and OPEC, IEA and IEF as guest international organizations.
The heads of state and government committed to foster economic growth of natural gas usage, promote the expansion of natural gas utilization in different sectors, and encourage GECF dialogue with all market players and stakeholders.
In November 2013, the 15th ministerial meeting of the GECF was held in Tehran under the chairmanship of Iran’s Minister of Petroleum Bijan Zangeneh, President of the ministerial meeting, and Mohammad Bin Saleh Al-Sada, the minister of energy and industry of Qatar, as alternate president. In his opening remarks, the president of the ministerial meeting gave an overview of developments in the gas markets and outlined challenges facing the GECF and its member countries. The ministers appointed Mohammad Hossein Adeli of Iran as the secretary general of the forum for a period of two years.
In 2014, Adeli commenced his tenure as the second secretary general of the GECF for a tenure of two years in accordance with the GECF statute.
Adeli is currently embarking on a number of new initiatives and activities such as the Monthly GECF Lecture Series and other similar activities to transform the GECF to a credible internatio