Iran’s Proposal to Deliver Caspian Gas to Turkey
A senior Iranian Oil Ministry official has proposed that Turkmen and Azeri gas be delivered through Iran to Turkey and onwards to European markets.
Azizollah Ramezani, international affairs director of National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) said that “We propose that gas be transferred from Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to Iran and then be exported from there to Europe through Turkey. This is the most economical and cost-effective way of transferring gas to Europe”.
His statement came just several days after Turkish, Azeri and Turkmen foreign ministers met in Ashgabat and discussed energy-related issues.
Following trilateral discussions with his Azeri and Turkmen counterparts on January 29th, Mevlut Cavusoglu, the Turkish Foreign Minister said that Trans Anatolian Pipeline is indispensible. He added that the secure transmission of the Azeri and Turkmen natural gas through Turkey to Europe was also discussed during the meeting.
Turkey and Azerbaijan want Turkmen gas to join through the under-water Trans Caspian Pipeline to Azerbaijan’s gas and be delivered through Georgia to Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP).
However Iran and Russia are against Trans Caspian pipeline, arguing that it would damage the environment. There is also the continuing issue of the legal status and exploitation rights amongst all five Caspian littoral states.
Iran’s proposal to transit gas from Turkmenistan through its territory towards Europe is not new idea. It was initially floated when in the late 1990's with initial plans that would have seen the Trans Caspian Pipeline gas run under the Caspian Sea from Türkmenbaşy to the Sangachal Terminal, where it would connect with the existing pipeline to Erzurum in Turkey, which in turn would be connected to the Nabucco pipeline.
Turkmenistan withdrew from under-water Caspian pipeline project and continued to focus on exporting its gas to Russia. Subsequently Turkmenistan started to construction of 200-km Korpece-Kurtuki gas pipeline with an initial 8 billion cubic meters per annum (bcm/a) of gas delivery capacity to supply Iran. The pipeline was realized by Iran’s financial help in 1997.
Turkmenistan also constructed the second gas delivery route to Iran in 2010 named the Dauletabad-Sarakhs-Khangiran pipeline, which has initial capacity of 12 bcm. The second pipeline was constructed, again Iran’s financial assistance, even though the first pipeline had not reached its full capacity, became operational while Europe was in intensive negotiations with Azerbaijan to realize Nabucco project. During this period, Iran was talking with Turkmenistan to transfer an additional 20-bcm of Turkmen gas through Iran towards the western countries.
Ramazani’s new statement is not directed to Azerbaijan. Baku has already selected the route of its gas export towards EU in 2013 via the Southern Gas Corridor, composed of South Caucasus Pipeline (Azerbaijan-Georgia), TANAP (Turkey) and Trans Adriatic Pipeline (Greece, Albania, Italy). The Iranian official is calling on Turkmenistan.
Is Iran sincere?
The fact that there is not any existing infrastructure inside Iran that would allow the transfer of Turkmen gas to Turkey's borders, seems to place doubt on that Iran’s proposal can be taken seriously.
Iran has two pipelines to receive Turkmen gas, as well as one pipeline to deliver 10 bcm/a of its own gas to Turkey.
It has plans to construct a pipeline to deliver 30 bcm/a of South Pars field’s gas to north-eastern borders close to Turkmenistan (1,100-km long 11th cross-country pipeline, projected to cost $4 billion). Iran also is to build another pipeline with 30 bcm/a transit capacity to north-western regions close to Turkey (1,863-km long 9th cross-country pipeline, projected to cost $6 billion) to transfer South Pars’ gas to Iran-Turkey borders.
Both of these projects are in south-north direction; there is not a pipeline to connect Iran’s north-east (Turkmenistan) to north-west (Turkey).
Then, it appears given the current situation, Iran is not in any near-term position to route Caspian gas towards Europe.
lham Shaban is Director of the Azerbaijan Centre for Oil Studies, in Baku.