Iran launches pipeline, eyes big Turkmen imports
Tehran, November 6, 2010
Iran has inaugurated a 500 km pipeline which will enable it to increase imports from Turkmenistan and better distribute its own gas to consumers within the country, the semi-official Mehr news agency reported.
The north-northwest gas pipeline, built at a cost of around $550 million, went into operation on Thursday.
It is the second phase of an Iran-Turkmenistan pipeline network that will raise the volume of gas imports from Turkmenistan to 40 million cubic meters per day from 25 million, Mehr said.
Deputy Oil Minister Javad Oji said the line could deliver gas from Iran's South Pars field in the Gulf to northern provinces which are traditionally served by gas from Turkmenistan, meaning the Turkmen imports were no longer strictly necessary, Mehr reported.
'Despite the increase in Iran's import capacity from its northern neighbour, with the start of the north-northeast line and the possibility of transferring gas from southern fields to the northern parts of the country, Iran is fully self-sufficient (and no longer dependent on) gas imports from Turkmenistan,' he said.
Northern Iran's reliance on imported gas was shown to be a vulnerability in December 2007, when Turkmenistan cut supplies during a bitterly cold winter. Iran accused its neighbour of using an 'immoral' tactic to get a higher gas price.
Despite its new ability to get gas from the southern Iranian fields to the northern consumers, Oji said Iran had no intention of cutting imports.
'Iran will go on importing gas from Turkmenistan to raise Iran's share in the world gas trade. There is also the possibility of transiting Turkmen gas to Europe and other consumer countries,' Oji, who is also head of the National Iranian Gas Company, was quoted as saying.
Iran, a major crude exporter, sits on the world's second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, but sanctions that hinder access to Western technology and other factors have slowed the development of its gas sector.
Turkmenistan is offering gas to consumers in Europe and China as well as Iran as it seeks to diversify supplies from its traditional market, Russia.-Reuters