Chakib Khelil, Algeria's energy and mines minister, said: "In the long term we are moving towards a gas Opec. It will take a long time."
 
Price concern
 
But gas customers in America and Europe are already concerned that if a gas cartel is formed, they will be subjected to higher prices and reduced supplies.
 
"We should send a very positive statement to our customers that we are with you, not against you"

Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah, Qatar's energy minister
The study group will look at pricing, infrastructure and the relationship between producers and consumers, ministers said.
 

It will report back to the gas forum's next ministerial meeting in Moscow next year.

 

The energy minister of Qatar, host to Monday's meeting and home to the world's third-largest gas reserves, placed the emphasis on improved dialogue between producers and consumers.

 

Abdullah bin Hamad al-Attiyah said: "We should work towards greater co-operation to stabilise the market, to give confidence to our consumers.

 

"We should send a very positive statement to our customers that we are with you, not against you."

 

Gas 'club'

 

Al-Attiyah took exception to use of the term cartel, saying he preferred club or group.

 

"I hate the word cartel," he said.

 

Russia also rejected the implication that producers would collaborate at consumer expense.

 

Before Monday's meeting, Khristenko said: "We do not, and will not, set ourselves the goal of ganging up on anybody. It would be destructive and it would make no sense at all."

 

Since its formation in 2001, the gas producers' forum, whose nations control more than 70 per cent of the world's natural gas reserves, has been viewed by analysts as a talking shop.