(Bloomberg) -- Qatar is betting that demand for liquefied natural gas will continue to grow over the next few decades as it embarks on a new multibillion-dollar project to expand exports.

“We need more gas for the world, and we need more players,” Energy Minister Saad Al-Kaabi said in an interview Sunday.

The Middle Eastern nation — already one of the world’s largest exporters of LNG — plans to add 16 million tons of annual production capacity. That’s in addition to its previously-announced expansion of 49 million tons per year.

Population growth, particularly in Asia, will drive demand along with economic recovery across the world, according to Al-Kaabi. Qatar is also looking to lock-in more deals in Europe, he said.

Read More: Qatar to Build New LNG Project as US Stalls on Export Push

The decision to plough yet more investment into gas production comes as projects elsewhere have stalled on the expectation of a glut while countries shift away from fossil fuels in favor of alternatives. Global gas demand could peak as soon as 2030, according to some analysts, including the International Energy Agency.

The US, which currently produces roughly the same amount of LNG as Qatar, has paused issuing new export licenses for as long as 14 months while it considers the impact of higher exports on the climate, the economy and national security. 

That decision will hit small American producers that rely on securing long-term sales agreements to underpin investments in liquefaction projects, according to Al-Kaabi.

“Buyers will not go for these sellers if every day the government could stop the process,” he said. “It’s very difficult to have long-term planning when you have that.” 

Natural gas prices have slumped in recent months, in part due to mild weather and muted demand, but also because Europe’s energy crisis has faded. As one of the world’s lowest-cost producers, Qatar is insulated from the full impact of global price swings, Al-Kaabi said. “If there’s a downturn, we will be able to cope with it more than others.” 

©2024 Bloomberg L.P.