Potential Routes for Delivering Turkmen Gas to EU
Azerbaijani, Turkish energy ministers, as well as European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic have discussed the gas delivery options with Turkmenistan in Ashgabat. They signed an energy declaration on May 1th.
During last two days, two options for transiting Turkmen gas towards EU were announced by Sefcovic: Transferring through Iran, and building underwater Trans Caspian pipeline.
On May 1st, Sefcovic said that he has discussed the possibility of transiting Turkmenistan’s gas via Iran with the Central Asian state’s leader Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov. The following day, in an interview with Reuters, he said “we discussed all aspects referring to the trans-Caspian pipeline… We made a big step in the strategic direction”.
Transferring Turkmen gas through Iran
Iran is ready to ensure transit for transporting Turkmen energy resources, particularly, oil and gas to the third countries, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said during his official visit to Turkmenistan in March 2015.
However, during a discussion held with Natural Gas Europe with Iranian ambassador to Turkmenistan, Mohammad Musa Hashemi Golpayegani on April 12th, he said that “Iran has technical opportunities, including a gas network for transporting in any direction, but, Iran and Turkmenistan have not yet discussed in what direction the transit of gas will be carried out, however, they supported the idea of transit itself”.
Iran has an agreement with Turkmenistan to import 14 billion cubic meters of gas per annum (bcm/a), however Ashgabat. delivered only 50 percent of this volume to Iran during last year. The capacity of Turkmen gas delivery to Iran via two pipelines is a little more than 18 bcm/a, while the capacity of cross-country pipeline from Iran-Turkmenistan borders to Tehran is a little more than 21 bcm/a.
There is not a pipeline in place in a east-west direction starting from Tehran however, with building a 200-km pipeline from Tehran to Esfahan city, it seems the Turkmen gas could be transited towards Iran-Turkey border, as a pipeline delivering gas from Isfahan towards Turkey borders is already existent.
However, there is potentially another option, which can also provide opportunity for Iran to economize $4 billion in building the 11th cross-country pipeline from South Pars gas field towards northeastern regions in bordering with Turkmenistan.
Iran is preparing the 11th cross-country pipeline, aimed to make northeastern regions self-sufficient instead of relying on Turkmen gas imports. The 11th cross-country gas pipeline project is 1,100 kilometers long with the capacity to transfer 100 mcm/d of gas. Iran has another project, a 1860-km length 9th cross-country pipeline, projected to cost $6 billion and transfer 110 mcm/d of gas from South Pars gas field towards Iran-Turkey borders.
Therefore, Iran potentially could sign a gas swap deal with Turkmenistan and Turkey, eliminate the 11th cross-country pipeline and accelerate the building of 9th cross-country pipeline instead.
Trans Caspian project
Turkmenistan has tight principles in gas deals. It is neither involved in external pipeline projects nor obliges any potential gas disruptions abroad. Therefore, the possibility of Ashkhabad’s participating in building Trans Caspian pipeline is very weak, while Iran and Russia are strongly against this project.
Last year, Turkmenistan and Turkey signed a framework agreement to supply gas to the proposed Trans-Anatolian natural gas pipeline project (TANAP), which will take gas from Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Sea.
To connect to TANAP, Turkmenistan needs to build its own, 300-km link under the Caspian Sea, a disputed area between Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Azerbaijan.
However Sefcovic says that a working group will be established in one month to further work on the trans-Caspian project. Iran and Russia say this could harm the fragile ecology of the shallow sea.
Sefcovic argued that EU had financed an ecological expertise of the project jointly with the World Bank.
"There are technologies which are reliable from the point of view of ecology," he said.
In case the pipeline become operational by 2019, and Iran’s 11th cross-country pipeline be built, then TANAP can be supplied by both Turkmen and Iranian gas from different routes, enabling an expansion of the Trans Adriatic pipeline capacity from the current 20 bcm/a to 30 bcm/a or even more and expand the importer countries list by reviving Nabucco project.
Iran planned to increase gas production level from the current 660 mcm/d to 1.1 bcm/d by 2020, while Turkmenistan is to increase gas production level from the current 200 mcm/d to above 680 mcm/d in 2030. For now, Turkmenistan has two potential gas export projects, doubling gas delivery to China to 65 bcm/a based on agreements and delivering 30 bcm/a of gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India through TAPI project.
Dalga Khatinoglu is an expert on Iran's energy sector and head of Trend Agency's Iran news service.