Oil and Gas Arbitration: A Perspective from Qatar

May 31, 2022

Reprinted from Bahrain Chamber for Dispute Resolution: INTERNATIONAL ARBITRATION REVIEW, 7, 1, June 2020, 143- 148, with permission of Kluwer Law International.

By: Thomas Williams, Partner

Ahmed Durrani, Senior Associate

An increase in investment in Qatar’s ever-growing energy sector has also led to a rise in energy-related arbitrations. This article considers Qatar’s oil and gas sector, followed by an introduction to the country’s arbitration law and a brief overview of the arbitration of oil and gas disputes in this jurisdiction.

Qatar is one of the leading oil and gas producers in the world. Its natural gas reserves stand at approximately 25 trillion m3, constituting almost 14 percent of world’s total natural gas reserves and the third largest reserve in the world.[1]

In 2019, Qatar was the world’s largest exporter of liquefied natural gas (“LNG”), with an export volume of 107.1 billion cubic meters, representing 29.9% of the global market share. Qatar plans further to boost its LNG capacity by adding another LNG production line, aiming to produce to 110 million tonnes per year by early 2024. This represents a substantial increase from its current production of 77 million tonnes per year.[2] Qatar also benefits from approximately 25.7 billion barrels of oil, accounting for about 1.5% of the world’s total oil reserves.[3]

As investment in oil and gas has risen, so too has the prevalence of energy-related arbitration. After a consideration of Qatar’s oil and gas sector, this article provides an introduction to the country’s arbitration law, followed by an overview of the arbitration of oil and gas disputes in this jurisdiction.

The oil and gas sector in Qatar

Further to Article 29 of the Qatari Constitution, the State of Qatar (or “the Government”) owns all the natural resources in Qatar. Through the promulgation of Law No. 10 of 1974 (which was subsequently amended by Law No. 15 of 1988), the State of Qatar established Qatar Petroleum (“QP”) to engage in all stages of the oil and gas industry in Qatar, including exploration, production, local and international sale of crude oil, natural gas and gas liquids, refined products, synthetic fuels, petrochemicals, fuel additives, and LNG.[4]

There are numerous other laws regulating the energy sector in Qatar, including:

  • Law No. 4 of 1977, on the conservation of petroleum resources and the conduct of petroleum operations within Qatar;
  • Law No. 30 of 2002, on the protection of the environment;
  • Resolution No. 4 of 2005, issuing the Executive Regulations of the Environment Protection Law;
  • Law No. 3 of 2007, addressing the exploitation of natural wealth and resources;
  • Law No. 15 of 2007, granting Qatar International Petroleum Marketing Company Limited (Tasweeq) Q.J.S.C. the exclusive right to market and export petroleum products produced in Qatar;
  • Law No. 11 of 2012, granting Qatar Chemical and Petrochemical Marketing and Distribution Company Limited (Muntajat) Q.J.S.C. the exclusive right to market and sell chemical and petrochemical products produced in Qatar; and
  • Law No. 9 of 2016, which changed Tasweeq’s name to Qatar Petroleum for the Sale of Petroleum Products Company Limited, and granted Qatar Petroleum the right to act as its agent to market petroleum products produced in Qatar.

Private or foreign investors can obtain commercial interests in either upstream or downstream sectors. Foreign investment is subject to the decision of the Government and QP, and is largely made by international oil and gas companies.

Further to Law No. 3 of 2007, QP has the authority to issue licences to entities to carry out petroleum operations in Qatar. Typically for upstream projects, this would be in the form of an exploration and production sharing agreement (“EPSA”) and, in the gas sector, a development and production sharing agreement (“DPSA”), between the Government (acting through QP) and the foreign investor. The production sharing model entitles the foreign investor to a share in the production, to recover the costs of its operations, and a proportion of the remaining production, which is shared with the Government. QP operates a tender system for providers and potential partners to enter into any EPSA or DPSA. Once the parties enter into an agreement, they need to obtain prior approval from the Government for the transfer of interest or a change of control in oil/gas licences. Transfer of concession rights, mining privileged rights, exploration licences, prospection licences or discovery certificates that are granted according to the provisions of the law are also prohibited unless the parties can obtain approval of the granting entity.

However, Qatar appears to be moving away from the typical EPSA and DPSA arrangements. Instead, the preferred approach now is for QP (or its affiliates) to enter into a commercial joint venture with international oil and gas companies for petroleum operations in Qatar.

Having said that, agreements between QP and the private international/domestic oil and gas companies are categorised as administrative contracts. The Court of Cassation has defined an administrative contract as a contract which (i) involves a public entity; (ii) relates to a public utility; and (iii) contains terms that are not likely to form part of a standard commercial contract. In essence, a contract made between two parties where one party is the State or entity thereof, and the other is a private company, and is an agreement for the purpose of exploitation of natural resources, is deemed to be an administrative contract.

The arbitration regime in Qatar

Qatar has taken a number of steps to facilitate the arbitration of oil and gas disputes.

For a start, Qatar’s primary arbitration legislation – Law No. 2 of 2017 (“the Arbitration Law”) – is based on the UNCITRAL Model Law. As such, it offers a modern arbitration regime which will be familiar to those operating in the energy sector. The principal substantive advantage of the Arbitration Law is the finality it affords to parties: there can be no challenge on points of law, with party incapacity, excess of jurisdiction and public policy forming the main grounds for setting aside an arbitral award.

Qatar’s commitment to arbitration is also seen in its courts. Dedicated arbitration judges, with specialist knowledge of the arbitral process and the Arbitration Law, deal with all arbitration-related cases. The judiciary’s approach is resolutely pro-enforcement: awards in Doha-seated arbitrations are rarely annulled.

It is also important to note that Qatar is a signatory to the New York Convention 1958. This allows for the straightforward enforcement of foreign awards in this jurisdiction. Furthermore, a decision of the Court of Cassation in 2014 indicated a positive step towards enforcing foreign arbitral awards and considered it as being in alignment with the Qatari public policy.

As well as its effective arbitration legislation and a judiciary committed to upholding awards, Qatar also benefits from specialist arbitration lawyers with in-depth experience of the energy sector. In this way, not only do parties have access to counsel who can provide high quality representation before tribunals, the jurisdiction houses practitioners who can act as credible arbitrators.

Oil and gas arbitration in Qatar

Contracts involving the State of Qatar (through QP) and an international oil and gas company usually provide for a multi-tiered dispute resolution mechanism: non-binding expert determination, followed by executive negotiations and, failing which, a binding Doha-seated ad hoc arbitration conducted under the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules. Since contracts between the Government and international oil and gas companies constitute administrative contracts, the Prime Minister’s prior approval is required for arbitration agreements, further to Article 2(2) of the Arbitration Law.

If disputes arise under bilateral or multilateral investment treaties, arbitrations can be conducted under the Convention of the International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (“the ICSID Convention”), to which Qatar became a signatory in 2010. Qatar has also signed several bilateral investment treaties (“the BITs”), including with the United Kingdom, Singapore, India, Argentina and Egypt. The BITs generally provide a flexible dispute resolution mechanism, in that the parties are free either to litigate or arbitrate (under the ICSID Convention, the UNCITRAL Arbitration Rules or any other institution on which the parties may agree).

The primary multilateral investment treaty (“the MIT”) is the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation Agreement of Promotion, Protection and Guarantee of Investments. Unlike the BITs, the MIT does not specify any arbitral institution or rules.

In addition to disputes at the apex level between states and foreign investors, construction disputes in the energy sector are common in Qatar. Construction contracts (which primarily are premised on the FIDIC standard clauses) in Qatar typically prescribe a Doha-seated arbitration under the Arbitration Rules of the International Chamber of Commerce (“the ICC Rules”). One notable public example of such a case is the arbitration between Hyundai Heavy Industries and the Barzan Gas Company Limited (a joint venture between QP and ExxonMobil).[5]

Arbitrations concerning gas price review clauses are also prevalent.[6] Gas (storage) suppliers used to enter into long-term contracts of up to 20 years with fixed monthly instalments and no possibility of early termination. These contracts were designed to balance the supplier’s risks for his investment in either gas delivery or storage infrastructure. The supplier guaranteed to deliver a certain quantity to the buyer, who undertook to take delivery regardless of consumption (so-called “take-or-pay clauses”). To accommodate the purchaser’s price risk, supply and storage contracts typically provide for a price adjustment mechanism.

Price review clauses that accommodate both parties’ demands in different price review periods are normally vague. The purchaser might seek a price reduction whereas the seller, under different circumstances, might pursue a price increase. Failure to agree on the revised price is a common cause for commencing arbitration in these long-term contracts post an unsuccessful expert determination. This issue was at the heart of the ICC arbitration between Italian energy utility Edison and Qatari company RasGas, where the Tribunal redrafted a long-term gas supply contract in an award worth around €450 million to Edison.[7]


Oil and gas continue to play a major part in the economic success of Qatar. Allied to that success is the country’s development as a serious arbitration jurisdiction. There is a robust arbitration law, matched with the availability of experienced and specialist counsel. The future for oil and gas arbitration in Qatar is indeed a bright one.

[1] Gas Exporting Countries Forum Qatar (GECF),’s%20proven%20natural%20gas%20reserves,world%2C%20after%20Russia%20and%20Iran.

[2] Jessica Jaganathan, “Australia grabs world’s biggest LNG exporter crown from Qatar in Nov” (Thomson Reuters, 9 December 2018),

[3] Qatar Overview (The Energy Year),,P%20ratio%20is%2036.1%20years

[4] William Cattan, “Qatar Law and Practice”, Chambers Global Practice Guide Energy: Oil & Gas (Chambers and Partners 2019) p. 302.

[5] Jung Min-hee, “Hyundai Heavy Involved in Multi-billion-dollar Dispute with Qatari Firm”, Business Korea (27 March 2018),

[6] Katharina Brueckner, “Arbitration in The Energy Sector” (LexisNexis, 2020),

[7] Kyriaki Karadelis, “ICC Award Gives Edison €450 Million Gas Price Discount” Global Arbitration Review (13 September 2012),

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