Challenges and Opportunities for Russia-Iranian Energy Relations in the Post Sanctions Era

Given several large Russian companies find themselves facing US sanctions they no longer face any further fall-out from working reliably in Iran. Indeed, Russian companies may continue their business in Iran’s oil, gas, and nuclear sectors unimpeded having already adapted to whatever curtailments have been inflicted upon them by US measures.

The purchase of Iranian oil by Russia is a significant aspect of the oil co-operation agreement struck between the two countries. At a meeting convened between Iran’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh and Russia’s Energy Minister, Alexander Novak in late December 2016, Iran agreed that a Russian company would sell Iranian oil, with 50% of profits handed to Russia in cash in Iran, and another 50% spent on purchasing goods and services from Russia to be put into operation in Iran.

Russia evidently desires a place in Iran’s oil industry. As the presidential aide, Yuri Ushakov recently stated, the country’s oil and gas companies are looking to invest in as much as a total of $50 billion to develop Iranian oil and gas fields. In his view, energy is the most promising area for cooperation between Russia and Iran; with leading Russian oil and gas companies such as Gazprom, Gazprom Oil, Rosneft, Zarubenzabad and Tatneft all having shown an active interest.

 

Russian firms’ withdrawal from Iran considering US withdrawal from JCPOA

 

Lukoil has joined others to halt activities in Iran since the departure of the US. The company had signed a mutually agreed partnership for the development of the Ab-Teymor oil field with Denmark’s Mersec, and the Indonesian Petrogas Vitamin Corporation.Regarding the company’s plans for the Iranian gas industry, the Deputy Chairman Gazprom, Alexander Medvedev, stated that “Gazprom is interested in cooperating with Iran from the beginning to the end of the gas value chain and plans to help in exploration, production, gas, LNG production, and gas supply through various pipelines, including those leading to India.”

After the nuclear agreement, Russia’s Zarubzhanov Corporation (with an 80% share), along with Dana Energy (with a 20% shareholding), signed a $742 million contract for the sustainable development of the West and Aban Oil Fields in Ilam province in partnership with the National Iranian Oil Company. The contract is set to stand for 10 years and can be renewed for up to 20. The combined production of these two fields is expected to increase by 67 million barrels over the next 10 years.

While Ali Akbar Velayati , an advisor to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic, has said that Russian companies are ready to invest in the Iranian oil and gas industry by as much as $50 billion, one Kremlin spokesman has denied these statements, and the Russian Energy Minister has claimed that purchasing Iranian oil may have a negative consequence on Russian industries. At present, trade volume between Iran and Russia values just $2.2 billion, however, both countries hold a potential to increase their trade volume. Iran and Russia are both interested in increasing trade to $10 billion dollars in the short term. The question remains, none-the-less, as to whether Russia’s overtures in Iran amount to nothing short of investment.

Oil for food trade

During the last sanctions regime, both countries signed an agreement to sell Iranian oil to Russia in return for goods and technology. By importing 500 000 barrels of oil a day from Iran, Russian not only parted with no money, but were able to sell more of their goods to Iran. Also, since Iran’s oil is not compatible with oil refineries in Europe – or even most within Russia – this oil was most likely transferred from Russia to China, Iran’s largest oil market, other countries in the South or East Asia. In this way, Russia was thus able to expand its own oil relations.

Iran’s strategy of signing contracts for oil development with Russia is not unwise given the absence of any other serious player. Rouhani’s government has been weak in the development of oil fields over the past five years. It is true that his cause should be sought through foreign policy and an attempt to ease the pressure of the United States, but, in any case, its outcome has been detrimental. Russian companies have the technology needed to increase the recovery rate of Iranian oil reservoirs. The Oil Ministry is keen to allow oil companies in Europe, Russia, China, Asia, and even the Americas (Americans are currently barred) to get involved in the development of Iranian oil fields.

Oil exports are the result of production, minus domestic consumption, however, oil production in Iran is gradually decreasing as a result of the decline in the production of the reservoir. The drop in the production of Iranian oil reserves is currently around 8%. The biggest issue regarding Chinese and Russian investment in the Iranian energy industry after the lifting of sanctions would be the terms of the contracts concluded – namely, the duration of these contracts, and the amount of contracts and technology used in these oil and gas fields, not to mention conditions which increase the likelihood of companies to bow to US pressures To abandon Iranian projects.

Considering developments in the energy market more broadly, and the effect US sanctions will have upon it, attracting foreign investment and technology to the Iranian energy industry will be much harder to achieve. Achieving the goals of Iran’s sixth development plan and vision document is possible only through foreign investment, which requires a reduction of political risk in the country through a more engaging foreign policy and greater consideration of legal mechanisms to assure foreign investors.

For the foreseeable future, however, it looks as though talks will remain at the macro level until a deal has been signed. Although details of the $50 billion investment of Russian oil and gas companies in Iran have yet to be determined, this would provide a sigh of relief for the country’s industry. Many insist that such an investment would not equate to dependency on Russia. One expert has stated that “The Iranian oil and gas facilities and resources are so broad that even if $50 billion of capital is from companies Iran’s oil industry is not looking for a mere dependence on a country. The Russians will be brought to Iran; but there will be plenty of work remaining that will capture technology and foreign capital from other countries.

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Iran and Azerbaijan share oil fields, so what’s stopping Tehran from drilling?

Iranian-Azerbaijani energy relations go back to the 1990s collapse of the Soviet Union. Both countries hold large reserves of oil and gas, and Azerbaijan has used an active energy and foreign policy to carve itself a place on the world energy market.

 

The Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline project was the first major step for Azerbaijan in this endeavor. Both countries are interested in developing successful bilateral relations based on energy. Iran hopes to use the infrastructure of Azerbaijan, particularly the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline to export its oil.

 

Iran also hopes to join the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline project in the future. However, at present, Iran has not enough natural gas to export to the EU or other countries.

 

Azerbaijan has also called on Iran to use its natural gas storage for use in times of increased consumption.

 

Shared fields in the Caspian Sea represent a potential basis for future cooperation. Azerbaijan has also invested in Iranian renewables as another potential platform for partnerships.

Iran is the only state in the Caspian Sea area which has no oil and gas activities in that region. This is due partly to the fact that the majority of Iranian oil and gas fields are located in its southern half and offshore in the Gulf.

 

Shared fields in the Caspian Sea here represent

a potential basis for future cooperation

 

The ability to harness the Caspian’s reserves is not just an issue of procurement but also about distribution pipelines, thus meaning further efforts are needed in conjunction with other nations.

 

Iran’s Caspian field, Sardar-e Jangal, was discovered in 2001. According to initial estimates, this field holds 50bcm of natural gas and 2bb of oil – of which Iran could expect to obtain 500 million barrels. After the signing of the nuclear agreement, Iran offered four projects in the Caspian Sea, blocks 24, 26 and 29, as well as the Sardar-e Jangal oil field, to foreign companies for exploration and development.

 

The development plan for the deep-water Sardar-e Jangal oil field is said to cost in the range of $7-10 billion, with Iran open to foreign investment for the project. Similarly, Iran has also invited foreign companies to invest in other fields. Iran is ready to attract foreign investment, and has frequently assured foreign companies with guarantees of the security of their investments – though such guarantees are constantly weighed up by investors vis-à-vis international developments in Iran’s foreign policy.

 

After the nuclear agreement was signed, Iran invited foreign companies to invest in its oil fields, with NIOC and Norway’s ORG signing a memorandum to study feasibility, as well as in three exploration blocks in the Caspian Sea. However, this agreement has so far resulted in little by way of actual progress.In a visit to Tehran by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in April 2018, leaders of both countries signed a Memorandum of Understanding on the “Joint Development of Relevant Blocks of the Caspian Sea”.

 

This followed a visit to Baku by President Rouhani in March, during which both sides signed a protocol in agreeing that Iran’s state-run NIOC and Azerbaijan’s SOCAR would recover oil on a 50-50 basis. The Khazar Exploration and Production Company (KEPCO) was tasked by the NIOC to improve Iran’s share of oil and gas fields in the Caspian Sea.

 

According to the document, a joint oil company would be established between the two countries, with the Alborz and Alvand fields identified as common areas in which Iran and Azerbaijan could enjoy an equal share.Iran has divided its exploration area in the Caspian into 46 blocks, eight of which have been given priority. Two blocks are shared with Azerbaijan.

 

Iran, between 2003 and 2005, carried out seismic tests across more than 4,000 square kilometres of the Caspian Sea at blocks 6, 7, 8 and 21. According to Mohsen Delvaz, CEO of KEPCO, Iran still need more exploration in order to have a clear estimate of how much capital will be required to launch extraction operations.

 

However, preliminary estimates indicate that at least $10 billion will be needed for the joint Iranian-Azeri oil field and between $7 and $10 billion for the Sardar-e Jangal field.

 

Iran is, again, open to foreign investment for the development in order to meet these heavy costs. But foreign companies remain wary, given the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran.

One energy expert has pointed out that the Alborz and Alvand fields mark the first successful step towards stabilising Iran’s energy rights in the Caspian Sea, but the recent agreement has also been a cause for uncertainty.The challenges for Iran in extracting hydrocarbon resources from the Caspian Sea mainly draw from concerns about the depth of its waters and the land-locked nature of the sea. This results in a lack of connection with open water, operational restrictions related to transportation of equipment, the changing climate, the very difficult and complex nature of providing support due to distance from the coast, as well as the cost and risk of exploration operations, a lack of background in fleet maintenance and offshore services, and technological sanctions.

 

Iran has a lot of experience in the development and production of hydrocarbon fields

in the offshore sector

 

Of course, Iran has a lot of experience in the development and production of hydrocarbon fields in the offshore sector in general, but these experiences are of a completely different nature in the southern parts of the country and in the Gulf.

The Caspian Sea, due to its depth, requires special conditions at all stages of drilling, development, production and transfer.

 

The sanctions regime represents the over-riding issue in these challenges. It is possible for Iran to sign agreements with Chinese and Russian energy firms to invest in joint fields in the Caspian Sea, yet deals with China have so far failed to materialise.

 

Azerbaijan is far more active than Iran in the Caspian Sea. This is to expected, since the US withdrawal from the JCPOA allowed Azerbaijan to attract foreign technology and capital for extraction from a joint field with Iran, playing an important role in the regional energy market at Iran’s expense.

 

Furthermore, Azerbaijan can bolster EU energy security via the TANAP and TAP projects – of which Iran is not yet a part.Geological and financial problems will continue to plague Iranian efforts, yet an active regional foreign and energy diplomacy could yet lead to breakthroughs.

 

Chinese companies would not be the best option for Iran in terms of the Caspian, due to financial requirements and insufficient experience in deep water.The crucial issue is to resolve the tension with the west – and this requires engagement with the US. Without foreign financial capabilities and technology, Iran will face serious problems in playing a key role in the regional energy market and producing more oil and gas from joint fields, let alone those over which it has full sovereignty.

 

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Tanker Insurance Cancellations threaten Iranian energy sector

The US’ withdrawal from the JCPOA and declaration of a new set of sanctions has been hard to swallow for those planning Iran’s energy sector, as they had been relying on the deal as a means of revivifying Iran’s oil and gas production capacity. These new sanctions are set to be implemented against Iran’s oil and gas sector on November 4. This is likely to have ahuge impact on Iran’s coffers, with insurers reportedly already halting coverage for shipments.

Following the announcement of a resumption of sanctions against Iran, owners of oil tankers were some of the first to start refusing trade with the country. When the previous round of sanctions against Iran was first established, tanker insurance was considered one of the main barriers to Iranian oil exports, as, given that most ship-owners carrying Iranian oil were not able to secure insurance, a number of Asian trading partners were forced to concede to government-sponsored security coverings.

When sanctions were imposed in 2012, the European Union prevented the International Group Corporation in London from providing any cover for Iran-bound cargo, which led to the de facto deployment of Iran’s tanker fleet, as foreign ships seeking to carry Iranian oil would henceforth be excluded from operating in the mainstream oil tanker market. This time, however, it remains unclear as to whether the EU will back US-led sanctions with such gusto.

Iranian companies have announced that they will continue to insure oil tankers, although this is somewhat difficult to do without connecting the Iranian banking system to international banks.

An Iranian supertanker called Happiness, which docked at a terminal operated by Iran’s national oil company on Kharg Island, for instance, currently has on board 2m barrels of oil. It was set to head for Asian markets at the beginning of September, although with Iran’s return to pariah status, its fate is now unclear. Iran’s own insurance companies are not recognized in international insurance circles. Additionally, these companies are facing their own domestic problems due to a lack of credit among financial and credit institutions in the country.

As one of Iran’s biggest export markets, firms and refineries in India in particularare very concerned about the insurance for tankers going between the two countries. Some refineries have already cut back on purchases of oil from Iran. Reuters reports that two major Indian refineries, Indian Petroleum and Bharat Petroleum, will reduce their purchases from Iran due to insurance concerns specifically. In response, Iran is planning to insure tankers transiting oil to India and to give special discount to Indian buyers.

Iran will not want to lose its share of the Indian energy market. According to Business India Online, The Indian government has allowed two Iranian insurance companies to pay a one-billion-dollar insurance coverage for Iranian oil tankers. This effort from New Delhi may have China, as the other largest consumer of Iranian oil, in mind. Custom from these major importers, however, are unlikely to mitigate the effects of US sanctions sufficiently by November if Iran is cut off from the global oil market.

EU buyers are also concerned about Tanker insurance. Coverage for the vast majority of ship leasing contracts is provided by IG Insurance Services Inc., if damage occurs, all actors in the tanker supply chain are aware that the group presides over billions of dollars in order to compensate. Even if both public and private insurance companies accept the risk of providing insurance for Iranian oil tankers, since no Iranian insurance company is a member of the International Syndicate of Oil Insurance, Iran’s insurance policy is essentially uncertifiable.

If Iran green lights such shipments regardless, it would be possible for Iranian tankers to be detained in international waters, leading to very severe legal consequences for Iran. The fact that both China and India have asked Iran to bear the cost of transporting and insuring their oil products shows that these Iranian oil customers want to put all liabilities on Iran as the seller.

To sum up, the hope of being able to by-pass tanker insurance with Iranian insurance is an overly optimistic move and may lead to an even greater conundrum of problems for Iran.

 

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Rethinking future Iran-Iraq energy relations

Iraq is perhaps Iran’s most important neighbour, sharing the country’s longest border and deep demographic, religious and ideological ties – not-to-mention vast reserves of natural resources, which may provide the basis of a convergence of geopolitical interests to the benefit of both.

Given the recent history of these two former warring nations, the two countries today enjoy surprisingly good political relations. With huge oil reserves, both Iran and Iraq are members of OPEC and have enjoyed a long presence on the world oil markets.

They share a number of fields, with the majority of Iraqi oil fields located inland and thus easy to extract, and the majority of Iranian oil and gas fields located offshore and therefore much tougher and costlier to exploit.

There is no doubt that the establishment of security and political stability are important in ensuring the success of efforts to expand the production capacity of both suppliers. Iran has frequently stated that is ready to develop oil and gas in cooperation with Iraq. Iranian energy firms are equally interested in Iraq’s energy infrastructure and fields.

Thus, the future holds much in the way of regional cooperation, with possible areas for this outlined below. Events and developments in other areas may, however, hold sway over their realisation.

 

Iran-Iraq Natural Gas pipeline 


In 2013, Iran signed an agreement to export gas to Iraq. Iranian gas is exported to Iraq to supply the country’s power plants. With seven million cubic metres of gas being pumped to Baghdad daily, Iraq has become the second-largest export destination for Iranian gas.

Iran has agreed to export 40-65mcm to Baghdad and Basra every day for the next six years, both countries having invested around $2.3 billion in the construction of a shared pipeline.

When the pipeline was launched in 2017, Iran began to export 14mcm to Iraq daily, a figure it looks forward to increasing. The project is a short-term one which involves exploration in gas-rich areas of Iraqi Kurdistan. Iraq is also interested in using Iranian capital and technology and experience in the LPG sector.

Iraq is planning to use LPG in cars and housing. Iran and Iraq have signed an agreement allowing Iranian companies to assist in the construction of Iraqi LPG facilities. This cooperation comes in various forms, including distribution, provision of vehicles, and the construction of hospital and residential complexes. The volume of gas exports to Iraq are set to increase to 35 million cubic metres per day with the launching of a sixth natural gas pipeline.


Oil swap


Iran is transporting Kirkuk Oil to the consumer market. In past years, Iran has used Turkey’s Ceyhan port to transit oil to markets. In December 2017, both countries signed a trade agreement promising to swap a daily amount of 60,000 barrels of Iraqi oil from Kirkuk.

This gives Iran the opportunity to have a greater sphere of influence in Iraq, with all the economic benefits this ensures, providing an opportunity for the central government in Iraq to exert greater control over Iraqi territory.


Electricity export


Iran exports electricity to its neighbours and is planning to become a regional electricity hub in the long term. Iran exports between 200 to 250 MW to Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. Iraq takes a large share of this, with around 120-130 MW electricity. Iraq is the biggest importer of electricity from Iran.

 

Last summer, Iran cut off electricity to Iraq due to a shortage in its domestic market. Some analysts have said that Iran aims to export to Iraq for political as well as economic reasons. In September 2018, Iraq was unable to pay its electricity bill to Iran, and has a debt of around $1.4 billion outstanding to Tehran.

After Iran cut the power, Baghdad signed an agreement with Saudi Arabia to make up the shortfall. Saudi Arabia reportedly offered to build a 3000-megawatt solar plant in Saudi Arabia and sell electricity to Iraq at a quarter of the price of Iranian supplies, though Iran plans to increase imports in general despite this loss of custom. Domestic supplies remain, however, a priority.

Joint Oil fields 


Iran shares a number of oil and gas fields with Iraq. Iran’s inability to attract foreign capital and technology to recover oil and gas production capacity in light of sanctions particularly affects its inability to benefit from the shared fields.

By 2017, Iraq was involved in the extraction of nine shared oil and gas fields at Azadeghan, Yadavaran, Azar, NaftShar, Behloram, Paydar Gharb and Arvand.

At present, Iraq produces twice as much as its neighbour from shared fields. Iraq has managed to increase its oil production from around 1.7 million barrels a day to 4.7 million barrels per day in the time between 2005 and 2017, making it easier for foreign companies to enter the market and add to investment.

In June 2018, Iraq ceded the exploration and development of several oilfields near Iran to the UAE’s al-Hilal company. At the same time, Iran launched measures aiming to increase production in the West Karun block, some of which is shared with Iraq. It should be noted that the amount of reserves in the Iranian section, which includes the Azadegan fields (north and south), Yaran (north and south), is estimated at 64 billion barrels.

Russian companies currently have had an active presence on the Iraqi side of these fields, yet the long delay in Chinese companies launching work on the Yadavaran and North Azaghan Fields has caused Iran to miss out on effectively exploiting these reserves.


US withdrawal from the JCPOA


The US withdrawal from the JCPOA Iranian nuclear deal and its re-implementation of fresh sanctions against Iran’s energy sector provides a good opportunity for Iraq to increase its oil and gas production from shared fields and take the lead over Iran’s share of the consumer market.

It can be expected that after new sanctions are introduced, foreign oil firms will be unable to invest in the Iran energy sector at all.

Iraq is also increasing its share of the Turkish oil market and is likely to overtake Iran in this regard. Furthermore, if Iran is no longer able to enjoy electricity deals with Iraq, Saudi Arabia will take its share in Iraq’s electricity market.

Given the political tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Riyadh is no doubt ready to take effective steps to exploit the resulting shortfall. Iran needs to revise its regional policy and resolve its current tension with its neighbours if it is interested in using energy exports as an instrument of foreign policy.

The US withdrawal will not only delay Iran’s plans to increase production in the common oil fields, but will provide Iran’s neighbours with an opportunity to encroach on what little progress Iran has made, and take a larger share of the regional and global oil markets.

Shared resource pools can act as a good basis for regional diplomacy to improve and expand ties with neighbouring countries. However, the continuation of sanctions will mean increasing the withdrawal of neighbouring countries from common areas and reducing Iran’s presence on the global market.

 

https://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/comment/2018/10/19/rethinking-future-iran-iraq-energy-relations

 

 

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Challenges Facing Natural Gas Export After the Sanctions

The share of Natural gas and LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) of the world energy market is increasing daily. In 2014, LNG’s share of the world gas market was 42% and according to International Energy Agency, this number will increase to 53% by the year 2040.

 

Among the LNG producing countries, Qatar has the highest share of exports. In 2016, of all the 264 million tons of LNG produced in the world, Qatar’s share was 77 million ton. Currently, countries such as Australia, Russia, United States, Mozambique… are investing heavily in this industry in order to increase their share of the market. As a result of the natural gas revolution in Chile and the new technologies and methods, the United States is quickly becoming one of the main LNG producers in the world, so much so that in near future, it will play an important part in the energy security of the European Union and East Asian countries. Since LNG export is more efficient than natural gas export, especially in long distance, we are now witnessing a new competition among the LNG producers over more shares in the market.

 

Despite having 18% of the world’s gas resources, Iran is unable to produce LNG. Iran has less than 1% of the world gas market and with the current patterns, its chances for increasing this share is slim. Before the US and EU sanctions over the nuclear program, Iran had made plans for LNG production. Three important projects of LNG, Persian, and Pars were left unfinished due to sanctions and foreign companies involved such as Shell, Repsol, Total, and Malaysia’s Petronas were forced to leave the county. “Iran LNG” project which is in 52% development, was designed for producing 10 million tons of LNG a year. After JCPOA, the regime wanted to finish this project with foreign investment and technology. The project required 4 billion dollars, but even before the United States’ decision to exit the deal, the negotiations with foreign companies were unsuccessful, and after US exit, it seems impossible to finish in such short time.

 

There were several plans designed for Iran to join the LNG exporter countries:

One of these plans was the Iran-Oman pipeline which was supposed to export 10 million square meters of natural gas a day. Iran wished to turn some of this gas into LNG in Oman facilities and then send it to market, but this deal has not come to fruition. The capacity of Oman’s facilities is about 1.5 to 2 million tons.

 

The other option was building small LNG units. After JCPOA, Iran had numerous negotiations with Russian, Chinese, and Korean companies for building small LNG units. The production capacity of these small units is 300 tons a day, and they are usually used for delivering gas to distant areas that might be difficult to reach. Iran was planning to build several of these LNG units over two years, but the sanctions and lack of interest from foreign companies prevented it.

 

Iran’s next option was using offshore LNG producing ships. Floating LNG (FLNG) is a type of ship with LNG production technology that mines a gas field under the sea and turns it into LNG. In the fall of 2017, there were negotiations between Iran and a Norwegian company to buy floaters, but that also failed.

 

Saturation of the LNG market and the competition among the producing countries will make it more difficult for the new producers of LNG to enter the market. Iran’s vast resources of natural gas is a good opportunity for the country to play a role in the regional and international market by producing LNG. Exporting LNG to distant countries through pipelines is not efficient. The safest alternative is for Iran to consider east Asia, India, and the European Union for LNG export in the long run. But without any changes to its regional policies, the Islamic Republic will have a hard time attracting foreign investments. The main obstacle to drawing investments in the energy industry, especially in natural gas and LNG, is the lack of a legal structure for effective and quick decision making and the country’s political instability. These are not difficult to overcome if there is a political will to use natural gas in order to improve the economic and political conditions of the country.

 

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Turkey to Continue Iran Gas Exports Despite US Sanctions

TEHRAN, Sep. 16 (MNA) – Omid Shokri Kalehsar, a senior energy security analyst, told Mehr News that Turkey will continue to import natural gas from Iran despite US’ sanctions targeting Iran’s oil sector.

Omid Shokri Kalehsar, a senior energy security analyst and PhD candidate in international relations, said in an exclusive interview with Mehr News Agency that Turkey is keen on buying natural gas from Iran with “reasonable price” in contrast to the price it pays for the gas imported from Russia and Azerbaijan.

He stressed that if Iran and Turkey can agree on a price and Iran is able to produce more natural gas, Turkey will be interested to consider buying gas from Iran instead of the other two rivals.

He went on to add, however, that while Turkey’s private companies have enough financial resources to attract Iran’s market, a legal framework, an efficient decision-making process, and political stability are also needed to make attracting foreign investment possible.

The following is the text of his interview with Mehr News:

Back in 2015, Iran had voiced willingness to pipe its natural gas to Europe through Turkey. Did that plan ever come to anything? And is the project still feasible after the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal and the reinstatement of economic sanctions on Tehran?

Iranian officials many times showed their interest to export natural gas to EU and play a role in EU energy security. Iran holds world’s second natural gas reserve but at present has no major natural gas export. It should be noted that Iran has high domestic natural gas consumption and suffers lack of foreign investment and technology and capital capacities due to sanctions. Iran just exports annually 10 bcm to Turkey. Major natural gas export needs more foreign investment, financial resources and decrease in domestic consumption.

In coming years there is no more demand in EU natural gas  market. At present EU members states’ LNG imports from US and Russia plays a key role in EU natural gas market and is planning to export more natural gas to EU via new pipeline projects such as Turk Stream and Nord Stream 2. EU members also made more investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Iran needs about 4-6$ billion to construct required infrastructure to deliver natural gas to Turkey borders. And at present Iran has no more capital capacities. And current natural gas price is not economical for Iran to export natural gas to EU via pipeline.

Ankara has pledged to boost imports of Iranian gas despite US sanctions. Is that request still on the table?

US sanctions targeted Iran oil sector and Turkey will continue natural gas import from Iran. Turkey has some domestic pipelines project and at present natural gas system is not integrated, Turkey needs Iran natural gas to use it in Southern part of Turkey which has cold winters. Ankara is interested in importing more natural gas from Iran. Turkey begins to import natural gas from Azerbaijan via TANAP project and by next year Turkey will import natural gas from Russia through Turk Stream project. By 2026 and at the end of Iran-Turkey natural gas agreement, Turkey is interested in importing more natural gas from Iran and extend the natural gas agreement with Iran. Turkey’s officials have repeatedly stated that they want to buy natural gas from Iran with reasonable price in contrast to the gas price which Turkey imports from Russia and Azerbaijan. If Iran and Turkey agree on price and Iran is able to produce more natural gas, Turkey will import more natural gas from Iran. It should be noted that more natural gas production needs more investment in oil and gas fields and requires infrastructure and giving priority to energy efficiency in Iran. Turkey told US officials that it will continue importing oil and gas from Iran but during last month Turkey decreased oil import from Iran.

Turkey has stressed that it does not approve of US sanctions against Iran, calling them ‘unilateral’. Meanwhile, Turkish energy company Unit International has a strong presence in Iran, with a $4.2 billion worth of contract with Iran’s energy ministry to build seven natural gas power plants here. How much progress has the company achieved with the project so far? Has Unit International decided to remain in Iran or abandon its investment projects under US pressure?

Post-JCPOA Iran expected to have more foreign investment in its energy sector.  Unit International was one of the foreign firms which signed an agreement with Iran to build seven natural gas power plants. According the agreement, Iran will provide the natural gas which Unit International need for these power plants. Iran has also pledged to guarantee purchase generated electricity from these power plants at a predetermined agreed price over a period of 6 years.

By September 2018, there was no major development in this agreement. There were challenges and debates between government and parliament over this agreement.  Asadollah Gharakhani, spokesman of Iranian Parliament Commission on Energy announced that in attraction of foreign investors for energy sector, government policy should include transferring of knowledge and technology, and also human resource training. He refers to the fact that Unit International has no history of construction of power plants and this company was not considered a power plant manufacturer, he claims that Unit International in Turkey occasionally organizes hotels and business activities.

US withdrawal from JCPOA is a major problem for any foreign company interested in investing in Iran energy sector. It is expected that Unit International needs Turkish government’s strong support to keep investing in Iran and to continue construction of natural gas power plants. I think it will not be easy for Unit International to maintain in Iran. The other problem in both Iran government and parliament is the support to this company and other foreign firms to be more active in Iran energy sector. Turkey’s private companies have good experience and enough financial resources to attract the Iran market. The problem is that to attract foreign investment you need a legal framework, an efficient and fast decision process and political stability (especially in the international context). At the moment these variables are far from being achieved.

Omid Shokri Kalehsar is a senior energy security analyst and PhD candidate in International Relations. His primary research interest is in the area of energy diplomacy, geopolitics of energy, Iran–Russia relations and Iran-Turkey relations.

Interview by: Payman Yazdani, Marjohn Sheikhi

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Energy is a Backbone of Azerbaijan-Turkey Relations

Europe is a constant hunger for oil and gas despite the development of the alternative energy resources. In this regard Azerbaijan takes an important role for Europe. Baku-Tbilisi-Kars is a chain that will unite East to the West. Energy consultant Omid Shokri Kalehsar commented Eurasia Diary’s questions on the Azerbaijan-Turkey relations and Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railways project.

 

– Yesterday the President of Azerbaijan arrived to Turkey. What are the objectives of the visit?

 

– Azerbaijan–Turkey relations have always been strong with the two often being described as “one nation with two states” slogan. Erdogan attended in opening cermony of  Baku- Tbilisi- Kars Railway project.the project designed to be a new corridor that will connect Azerbaijan, Georgian and Turkish railways.  The project implementation began in 2007 and construction began in 2008 and it foresees the rehabilitation and reconstruction of 178 km-long railway .This project will effectively open a new rail-only corridor from the Caspian Sea to Europe via Turkey, eventually excluding the need for sea transportation once the planned rail tunnel under the Bosporus Strait in Istanbul is complete.

 

The Baku-Tbilisi-Kars project could also open a North-South rail corridor linking Russia to Turkey. This line will transport both freight and passengers and is expected to provide an alternative freight transport route to routes that transit through Iran. Energy play key role in Turkey-Azerbaijan relation and it can be describe of backbone of their relations. Both countries are interested to play important role for transporting goods from region to the consume market and in this regard Baku- Tbilisi- Kars Railway project hold a potenail to help these counteris to gain political and economic benefits.

 

Durign Erdogan trip to Baku,both president express there willing  to develop bilateral relations, increase trade volume and mainly there plan to begin using TANAP project soon. Erdogan in his last visit to Baku has expressed his country’s support to Azerbaijan’s  position on Nagorno-Karabakh.He  said that Turkey and Azerbaijan have a unanimous stance on the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict. According Erdogan: “We speak the same language and act from the same positions”.

 

Erdogan’s remark came in response to the reports that Azerbaijan’s wishes to see Baku in the OSCE Minsk Group mission (which mediates peace between the conflicting parties).

 

 

– What role will Azerbaijan and Turkey play in the supply of energy resources to Europe?

 

– Azerbaijan began to present itself as a key ally in the European energy market, partly by retaining an interest in having a potential role in the Southern Gas Corridor. Many international transport routes, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, Baku-Supsa, Baku-Novorossiysk oil pipelines and Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum, Azerbaijan-Georgia, Azerbaijan-Iran and Azerbaijan-Russia gas pipelines originate namely from Azerbaijan.It is believed that TANAP, which will later be linked to TAP. The Southern Gas Corridor project envisages the transportation of the gas extracted at the giant Shah Deniz field in the Azerbaijani section of the Caspian Sea. Gas deliveries to Europe are expected just over a year after the first gas is produced offshore in Azerbaijan.The Southern Gas Corridor pipeline system has been designed to be scalable to twice its initial capacity to accommodate additional gas supplies in the future. Shah Deniz 2 gas will make a 3,500 kilometer journey from the Caspian Sea into Europe. The existing South Caucasus Pipeline will be expanded with a new parallel pipeline across Azerbaijan and Georgia, while the Trans-Anatolian pipeline will transport Shah Deniz gas across Turkey to join the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will take gas through Greece and Albania into Italy.The first gas supplies through the corridor to Georgia and Turkey are given a target date of late 2018.

 

 

 

According to the Strategic Plan of the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources (2015-2019), diversification of energy resources is a top priority. Turkey is interested in using its geographic position in the region to become an energy transit country and regional hub for oil and gas from the Caspian Basin, Central Asia, and Iran, to European markets. Turkey is interested in using its geographical position to play a key role in the energy market.

 

Turkey needs more investment in infrastructure to increase the capacity of its refineries and natural gas storage facilities. It could be argued that energy would help Turkey to improve its relations with the EU and enhance its candidacy status. Both sides could use the increased energy and diversification of energy resources to strengthen beneficial relations and gain mutual advantage from an energy agreement. That said, many of these plans are still in the early stages of development, and it will take years for them to come to fruition. However, in the meantime it remains to be seen what advances will be made in the short term, and how quickly Turkey’s ambitions as a transit country materialise.

 

– I would like to hear your opinion on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The other day Ilham Aliyev and Serzh Sargsyan met. But Sargsyan does not want to return Azerbaijani territories. What can you say about this? 

 

– In Nagorno-Karabakh conflict Minsk group has play key role but during its history we can see a little progress in its attempting to solve Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Recent meeting betwen  tow preseident has no clear effects on future this conflict.The meeting, which takes place on the initiative of the Organization for Security and Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, will come more than a year after the leaders of the two nations last met. Minsk groups espicaly Russia hold a potentail to solve Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and is able to pressure both parties to be more active in negation process with aim of solving Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

http://ednews.net/en/news/analytical-wing/206247-energy-is-a-backbone-of-azerbaijan-turkey-relations

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Iran to Sell Russia 1.5 Mln Barrels of Oil in Exchange for Technology, Services

Iran plans to start selling 100,000 barrels of oil a day to Russia within the next 15 days, Iranian Student New Agency (ISNA) wrote, citing the country’s Oil Minister Bijan Zanganeh.

Briefing the media after a meeting with his Russian counterpart Alexander Novak in Tehran, Zanganeh said that Iran would receive payment half in cash and half in goods and services.
“We are looking for long-term trade relations with Russia to minimize the effect of fluctuations created by the West,” Bijan Zanganeh added.

In an interview with Sputnik Persian, independent Iranian analyst Omid Shokri Kalehsar said that while the Western countries took their time waiting for US President Donald Trump’s actions regarding Tehran, Russia has become the first buyer of Iranian oil since the partial lifting of sanctions agreed in 2015.

“In 2011 and 2012 the EU imposed a ban on the import of Iranian oil over Tehran’s nuclear program. Meanwhile, there were media reports about a “barter oil deal” being discussed by Russia and Iran whereby Iran would supply a daily 500,000 barrels of oil to Russia in exchange Russian technology, equipment and services,” Omid Shokri Kalehsar said.

“However, after Iran and the P5+1 signed a nuclear agreement  paving the way for lifting the sanctions from Tehran, the “barter agreement” was no longer need,” he added.

Still, the agreement on the planned supply to100, 000 barrels of Iranian oil to Russia reflects the two countries’ desire to expand their energy cooperation.

“Russia’s Lukoil and Gazprom companies are ready to invest into the Iranian oil and gas sector, which needs some $150 billion dollars’ worth of investments. This would help Iran to extract more hydrocarbons thus cementing its position in the global energy market,” Kalehsar noted.

“Lukoil and Gazprom will return to Iran to develop new oil and gas fields there.”

After Iran and the P5+1 group of international negotiators, including Russia, the United Kingdom, China, France, the United States and Germany, signed a comprehensive agreement on Tehran’s nuclear program in Vienna in July 2015, European countries showed interest in Iran’s oil and gas sector, with the election of Donald Trump, they are biding their time waiting for the new US President to outline his position on the 2015 nuclear deal with Tehran.

“Russian companies have none of these concerns though and will be the first to establish themselves in the Iranian oil market, way ahead of their European counterparts,” Omid Shokri Kalehsar said.

A number of Russian companies have already signed memorandums of understanding with Iranian companies.

Earlier this month, Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak said that Moscow considers it possible to extend its participation in the oil producing states’ agreement on output cuts for another six months, and will decide on the issue in April or May.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) sealed a deal on November 30, 2016, agreeing to cut its oil output by 1.2 million barrels per day for the first six months of 2017 in an effort to stabilize the oil market and bring oil prices to the healthy range of $50-60 per barrel.

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201702241051001397-iran-russia-oil/

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How Iran-US escalation may impact oil market?

Iran, in the post-sanctions era, was expected to attract more foreign capital and technology, especially in energy sector.

Prior to the imposition of sanctions, Iranian officials had, on many occasions, stressed that Iran needs about $200 billion to recover and potentially increase its oil and gas production capacity. Iran has devised a new oil contract entitled Iran Petroleum Contract (IPC) aiming to ease foreign investment in its oil fields.

The majority of oil fields are in the second half of their production and their production capacity is dropping annually to average 8 percent. This is while any attempt at recovering oil fields production capacity requires high technology and foreign investments.

By April 2018, Iran succeeded in signing only two contracts with foreign energy firms to recover and increase its oil and gas production capacity.

One contract was signed with France’s Total and China’s CNP for the development of the 11th phase of South Pars. The other one was signed with the Russian company Zarubezhneft for the re-development of the Aban and Paydare Qarb oil fields.

Iran is also planning to sign agreements with Indonesia’s state-owned Pertamina for Mansouri oil field development. Pertamina is interested in making investments in this field in a bid to produce 60,000 bpd and eyes for possible exports to Indonesia.

For that matter, it is safe to argue that Iran’s priority is to attract foreign technology and capital for development of its oil and gas fields.

However, if the Trump administration decides to withdraw from Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), Iran will encounter significant challenges in order to attract investments.

Further, if the US decides to impose new or further sanctions on Iran, it is likely that foreign energy firms, whose capital and investments are currently in the US or have mutual projects with American private and federal companies, would shy away from making investments in Iran’s economic and energy sectors.

In 2017 Iran lost its oil market share in Asia to Saudi Arabia, US and Russia in spite of gaining higher share in the EU market. Obtaining higher share in the EU market helps Iran to benefit from “Oil for Investment/Goods” with EU companies even if further sanctions are to be imposed on the country. It already has difficulties to receive its oil revenue.

I believe that Iran is a lucrative target for many foreign private and state energy firms who have sufficient experience and hold enough capital and technology needed to be able to enter the Iranian market.

The real problem, however, is for foreign investments to be made without hindrances. Iran needs a legal framework as well as an efficient and fast decision-making process and, most importantly, political stability in both domestic and international levels.

Iran can use difference-pricing policy to preserve its share in regional and global markets. Accordingly, Iran can offer discounts to major oil costumers, as this policy was pursued during the sanctions period in which India benefited from such discounts.

During the sanctions period, Russia, Iraq and Saudi Arabia captured Iran’s share in global oil market. The quality of Iranian oil is in many respects very similar to Iraqi Kirkuk and Russia Ural crude oil.

The oil industry will be affected by the forthcoming US decisions regarding the future of Iran nuclear deal.

In the post sanctions era Iran increased its oil exports by 1,000,000 bpd. It is thus expected that Iran’s oil export would drop significantly in case of re-imposition of sanctions.

Since supply and demand is the overarching principle ruling the world’s oil market, other major suppliers hold a potential to produce more if Iran or any other country faces a decrease in its production capacity because of sanctions.

In addition, if tensions surface in relations between Iran and other OPEC or non-OPEC producers, they may exploit the situation to raise their production capacity and use it as a viable political leverage against Iran.

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Iran Energy Sector: After Lifting Sanctions

Omid Shokri KALEHSAR

23.01.2016

The P5 + 1 nuclear agreement with Iran and the lifting sanctions on the Iranian energy sector has provided a great opportunity for Iran to recover its oil, natural gas, LNG and production capabilities as well  great opportunity for foreign companies to invest in Iran energy sector. Furthermore, in the near future this will be positive for the Iranian economy as a whole and the oil and gas industry in particular. Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, the Oil Minister who greeted a press conference in April 2015, expressed that Iran was ready for a rapid increase in oil exports after the lifting of sanctions and emphasized that maintaining the share of Iran’s oil sales at OPEC and said the rate would be likely to return to the state it enjoyed before sanctions.

According to the OPEC statics , Iran has oil reserves of 157 billion barrels, or about 13.1 percent of the oil reserves of OPEC, putting Iran at similar level of significance to Venezuela and Saudi Arabia. Despite this important potential in terms of oil reserves, production and export has never been in a capacity to fully seize upon its potential, even if the pre-sanctions rate of barrel production reached 6 million (decreasing to 2.5 million barrels during the sanction period – about one million barrels of exports).

With regard to the nuclear declaration in Switzerland and increasing the possibility of sanctions, some media and analysts to assess the future prospects of oil production began. In the meantime, a number of oil production in Iran is considered a potential high jump and even up to eight million barrels have estimated. But many oil industry officials and activists, these numbers are unrealistic. A month ago, “Rokneddin Javadi” Managing Director of National Iranian Oil Company, the oil production capacity in the drilling industry’s development depends. He said Iran’s oil production capacity is now about four million barrels per day.

The natural gas sector is slightly different. Iran could be an option for Europe to reduce dependency on Russian gas, and this is an issue which Iranian oil officials have repeatedly mentioned. It should be noted that a high consumption of gas in the country in the amount of gas injected into storage tanks and export (to Oman, Iraq and Pakistan) reduces the volume of gas available for export. Another barrier in this area is the lack of necessary infrastructure for gas exports to Europe. Under these conditions it is possible Western countries may not be able to wait as such a process requires at least 10 years.

To improve conditions for its oil and gas sectors Iran needs capital and technology that can be provided by international oil company access. Several informal talks between officials from the Ministry of Petroleum of Iran’s clerical government and representatives of international companies has been done. An example of the talks in September 2013 during the annual meeting of the United Nations and the OPEC summit in Vienna took place the same year. These companies have declared interest in participating in Iran’s oil and gas sector, but not at any cost.

Oil price falling is a serious problem toward Iran return to world oil market, and also oversupply by OPEC member and none-OPEC members.  In natural gas Iran have a chance to play key role in regional gas market. Iran is planning to begin export sag to Iraq, Oman and Pakistan via under construction pipelines. In Long-Term Iran is able to export gas to European market. But Iran’s first priority to complete its first LNG project and export LNG to European market by 2018.  Iran has a potential  to be game changer in world energy market but it required using energy diplomacy and more active foreign policy.

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