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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Washington boosts LNG with Iran in sanctions crosshairs

The shale gas revolution has had a staggering effect on the world energy market, shifting many prior assumptions regarding the geopolitics of energy.
Whereas in 2000 and the first years of the new millennium, shale oil and gas accounted for just one percent of all fossil fuels produced in the United States, the country has now moved towards energy self-sufficiency and is taking on the role of an exporter.

Whereas the Obama administration was a major force in fostering this development as a means of freeing the country from foreign dependency through diversification, in tandem with increased green energy supplies, the Trump administration seems to have sought to focus on energy in a more traditional approach.

The shale gas revolution and consequent US energy boom finally meant that a static fact of world energy geopolitics, – ie: that the US was dependent on oil mainly imported from the Middle East – could be cast aside. The US is now energy self-sufficient and free to export Liquefied Natural Gas to neighbours and allies around the world, and thus has added to Washington’s political flexibility.

The uptick in gas production in the US has already decreased LNG prices in the EU and Asia and thus presents a challenge to the old energy order

Not surprisingly, this turn of events is being monitored closely by other energy exporters.

The US is already using its energy exports to reduce the EU’s dependency on Russian gas, while exerting pressure on its allies to see it as an alternative to Iranian natural gas.

The uptick in gas production in the US has already decreased LNG prices in the EU and Asia and thus presents a challenge to the old energy order. In terms of US national security then, the energy boom can be examined from two perspectives, first, its implications for US energy security and second, its implications for the wider field of international relations and its geopolitics.

 

US withdrawal from the Iranian nuclear deal 

Iran’s economy and energy sector has been devastated by the US and EU sanctions brought against it due to Iran’s former attempt to build a nuclear programme. Sanctions have not only scuppered Iran’s chances of success in achieving its energy goals but also have forced Iran to become more proactive in consolidating regional relations.

Since Washington’s departure from the JCPOA agreement, energy companies who had only just began to consider re-entering Iran have withdrawn in anticipation of further sanctions. Few international banks or financial institutes are willing to participate in energy projects in Iran under such conditions.
The US is interested in reducing Iran’s role in regional and global energy markets, with Washington often declaring a wish to bring Iranian oil production down to zero. It is a fact that American sanctions against Iran’s energy sector have vastly reduced the country’s production capacity. US sanctions have also wrought severe harm in terms of technology and finance.

The US plans to increase LNG exports to countries which depend on Iranian hydrocarbons in an attempt to wean these countries off their reliance. But some analysts believe the US oil and gas sector is unlikely to gain Iran’s share of the market, as technically, Iran’s export oil grades are heavier and sourer than the light, sweet crude exported from the US.

 

Following the US withdrawal from the treaty, the country further cut imports of oil from Iran. Japan now imports 5.5 percent of its oil from Iran, according to the Japanese Ministry of Economy and Trade. In August, Japan was receiving 17,775 barrels per day and bought 3.39 million barrels of crude in one month.

Japan called for an exemption from the US embargo on Iran, which was granted by the Trump administration – but only for six months. Part of Iran’s share of oil is expected to fall victim to an influx of LNG exports and US gas condensate onto Japan’s market. Sanctions against Iran’s energy industry have not only reduced Iran’s oil and gas production capacity, but also reduced Iran’s share of the global energy market. The rising lack of investment in the Iranian oil and gas industry is one particularly immediate result of renewed sanctions.

Reducing oil production capacity and, consequently, reducing Iran’s oil export potential will force Iran to find loans and facilities from banks and global financial institutions in order to develop its facilities – yet it is clear that new US sanctions will challenge Iran’s ability to retain much of its oil production capacity regardless.

Given the increase in natural gas producers and LNGs on the market, the US energy boom provides a good opportunity for Iran’s rivals – not least the US itself – from moving in on Iran’s share of the regional and global energy market.

The increase in US oil and shale gas production has made Iran more pressured to find new markets, yet the country does not have the capacity to produce LNG, thus competing with the US, and it is unclear when the capital and technology needed to complete its LNG project units will be provided.

The US superiority in terms of advanced technology, research, investment, and diplomatic reach ensure it will retain a high position in the world energy market, while Iran will likely flounder further. If Iran and the US agree on current political and security problems, Iran may gain the foreign capital and technology needed to recover some of its oil and gas production capacity.

Energy continues to play an important role in US foreign policy, with implications not only on relations with designated rivals but also allies across the world.

Energy exports play a key role in US relations with its neighbours and allies, and are a key tool in fostering and furthering relations with others. Energy exports as a means of expanding relations and helping US allies in South Asia and Europe are sure to lead to interesting geopolitical developments, and US LNG exports are most likely to be effective in reducing Iranian oil exports to Japan and South Korea.

Turkey and India


Turkey is a major purchaser of Iranian natural gas. Turkey has huge investments in LNG storage facilities and plans to increase its share of LNG in the domestic energy market. In 2015, Turkey began to import LNG from the US, and is now the second-largest importer of US LNG in Europe.

An increase in US and Qatari LNG – alongside new natural gas transit projects such as TANAP and the Turkish Stream – means that Iran may be largely sidelined by Turkey in the near future. Similarly, India has also signed a 20-year agreement to be supplied with US LNG, also ensuring a reduction of Iranian supplies to the Indian energy market over a similar period.

South Korea 

Seoul is one of the main customers of Iranian gas condensate. More than 55 percent of Iran’s gas condensate is exported to South Korea. According to official statistics from the Ministry of Oil, Iranian gas condensate exports in 2017 numbered 428,000 barrels per day on average.

Since the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal, major Korean companies importing Iranian oil and gas condensate have cut imports from Iran. In the first six months of 2018, the Hanwa Total Petrochemical Company, the largest importer of Iranian gas condensate, imported 15.92 million barrels from Iran, but since August has reduced its imports to one-third, in favour of supplies from Qatar and the United States.


Japan

Japan is another main consumer of Iranian oil in East Asia. According to the Japanese Petroleum Association, in 2017 the country imported 172,216 bpd of oil from Iran, down 24.2 percent from the previous year. Iran’s oil accounted for 5.3 percent of total oil imports to Japan’s refineries in 2017.

Japan called for an exemption from the US embargo on Iran, which was granted by the Trump administration – but only for six months

Following the US withdrawal from the treaty, the country further cut imports of oil from Iran. Japan now imports 5.5 percent of its oil from Iran, according to the Japanese Ministry of Economy and Trade. In August, Japan was receiving 17,775 barrels per day and bought 3.39 million barrels of crude in one month.

Japan called for an exemption from the US embargo on Iran, which was granted by the Trump administration – but only for six months. Part of Iran’s share of oil is expected to fall victim to an influx of LNG exports and US gas condensate onto Japan’s market.

Sanctions against Iran’s energy industry have not only reduced Iran’s oil and gas production capacity, but also reduced Iran’s share of the global energy market. The rising lack of investment in the Iranian oil and gas industry is one particularly immediate result of renewed sanctions.

Reducing oil production capacity and, consequently, reducing Iran’s oil export potential will force Iran to find loans and facilities from banks and global financial institutions in order to develop its facilities – yet it is clear that new US sanctions will challenge Iran’s ability to retain much of its oil production capacity regardless.

Given the increase in natural gas producers and LNGs on the market, the US energy boom provides a good opportunity for Iran’s rivals – not least the US itself – from moving in on Iran’s share of the regional and global energy market.

The increase in US oil and shale gas production has made Iran more pressured to find new markets, yet the country does not have the capacity to produce LNG, thus competing with the US, and it is unclear when the capital and technology needed to complete its LNG project units will be provided.

The US superiority in terms of advanced technology, research, investment, and diplomatic reach ensure it will retain a high position in the world energy market, while Iran will likely flounder further. If Iran and the US agree on current political and security problems, Iran may gain the foreign capital and technology needed to recover some of its oil and gas production capacity.
Energy continues to play an important role in US foreign policy, with implications not only on relations with designated rivals but also allies across the world.

www.alaraby.co.uk/

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Iran’s joint oil fields could resolve regional tensions

It is common for oil and gas fields to be joint-owned by two or more countries, which often presents various challenges. There is a particular fervour over the need to focus on extracting from such fields, with international energy companies often invited to vie for generous extraction contracts.Iran shares 26 oil and gas fields with its neighbours yet, due to a lack of technological and financial investment over the past years, Iran has been unable to extract a competitive amount of oil from such fields. This has led to their exploitation by Iran’s neighbours. Studies show that around 20 per cent of Iran’s recognised oil reserves and 30 per cent of its natural gas reserves are in joint fields.

 

So far, Iran has only been able to procure from ten of these 26 fields. Despite an increase in productivity in these fields – most notably in the South Pars, in the Persian Gulf – the Rouhani Administration has failed to acquire the capital and foreign technology needed to compete with, let alone acquire an edge over, neighbours in terms of procurements.

 

The majority of Iran’s joint oil fields are located on the Iraqi border – Iran shares at least five oil fields with Iraq. Iraq, for its part, has a seven-year plan to increase oil production capacity and reach 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd). Its focus has been on those fields it shares with Iran and, in 2010, the Iraqi government invited Iran to invest in joint fields with the aim of increasing production and developing an equal production capacity.

 

However, Iran was unable to invest more in these joint fields due to a lack of financial resources. During the period in which heavy sanctions were placed on the Iranian energy sector, Iraq produced 295,000 bpd from joint fields with Iran, yet Iran was able to produce a mere 130,000 bpd in the same period. Iraq also managed to sign agreements with major international oil companies to increase its share from joint fields with Iran. Iraq revised oil contracts and added new conditions in order to attract oil companies, offering increased benefits in return for technological know-how and investment. Iraq’s new contracts are more attractive for oil companies, while the fields themselves are geologically favourable for procurement. Iraq has a program to increase oil production from joint areas shared with Iran.

Iran has no production capacity in its fields in the Caspian Sea, where it has two oil fields shared with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan. Both countries plan to increase production from these fields and Iran will be not able to attract the foreign technology and capital needed to benefit due to US sanctions.

Qatar has also become a major exporter of liquefied natural gas, with a lot of investment in foreign technology and gas production focused on the South Pars. Given that the South Pars field has been Iran’s top priority, over the past five years Iran has at least succeeded in increasing procurement through investment here. In March 2017, Iran drew a competitive 250,000 bpd from the South Pars, with Qatar drawing 300,000 bpd over the same period.

Iran and Saudi Arabia share four oil and gas fields. By 2017, Iran’s oil production from the Forouzan oil field – also in the Persian Gulf – numbered between 38,000 to 40,000 bpd, while the Saudi side has far outstripped its rival with a production capacity of 400,000 bpd from this field. Similar imbalances are apparent in all shared fields in this area.

 

Joint oil and gas fields are important for all countries in the region, with all countries which share oil and gas fields with Iran gaining billions from their procurement. The US withdrawal from the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, more commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal) has motivated many regional rivals to accelerate their activities further. Since major foreign oil firms have abandoned Iran in response to the now-ineffective agreement, these firms have similarly sought activities elsewhere in the region. Unconfirmed reports so far state that around $6 billion worth of gas has thus been lost to competitors. Any delay in the development of joint fields will thus cause irreparable losses for the country. Experts warn that any delay in signing contracts for foreign investment will hinder the development of joint fields and will help the neighbouring states to plunder Iranian oil reserves.

 

Cooperation between Iran and neighbouring Arab countries in the development of plans for joint fields could provide the basis for increasing security and stability in the region. Moreover, foreign investments are important for Iran in recovering its oil and gas production capacities. Iran’s huge oil and gas reserves can play a key role in the world energy market yet, as expected, with the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement the Iranian energy industry faces yet more challenges in attracting foreign investment and technology. After the removal of sanctions, Iran plans to create conditions for attracting foreign investors by drafting new oil contracts. Iran has repeatedly stated that it needs $2 billion of foreign investment to revive its oil and gas production capacity.

 

Considering developments in the energy market and US sanctions, attracting foreign investment and technology to the Iranian energy industry will be tougher than ever. Achieving the goals of the country’s Sixth Development Plan and Twenty-Year Development Plan is possible only with foreign investment, which requires a reduction of political risk in the country. In the event of a reversal of fortunes in terms of foreign policy and the provision of other requirements for foreign companies, capital can be expected to pour in – particularly from Russian and Chinese companies.

 

A change of attitude in foreign policy and an attempt to eliminate tensions with neighbouring countries will be an important step towards attracting foreign investors. An increase in the oil and gas production capacities of the country is a short and mid-term priority for Iran’s Oil Ministry. Yet Iran must resolve political tension with its neighbours and also negotiate with the West to if these goals are to become workable.

Iran’s joint oil fields could resolve regional tensions

 

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The Challenges and Opportunities of Iranian LNG Projects

Over the past few decades, the share of natural gas in the global fuel basket has grown considerably. All predictions point to gas becoming the largest source of energy in the world, reaching over 28% by 2035. At present, countries such as US, Russia, Australia have made huge investments aiming to take a higher share of the LNG market. Qatar, the world’s largest producer and exporter of natural gas, with a market share of around 30%, has accounted for one third of the world’s total exports in recent years. Considering Qatar’s policies and increasing investment, it is expected that the export capacity of this product will only increase. America is struggling to keep up, and in the light of advanced technology with government-backed innovation projects and financial support, as well as the active participation of the private sector, it is planning to stake its own claim in the global energy market. Unconventional oil and gas production has turned the country from an energy importer to an energy exporter. According to the US Energy Information Administration, the country is set to become the third largest LNG exporter in the world after Qatar and Australia, with a daily production of 9.6 cubic meters a day.

 

Iran holds huge oil and gas reserves, yet is unable to play a role in Middle Eastern or world natural gas market. Iran annually exports only 10 bcm natural gas to Turkey, and is unable to complete any of the five LNG projects it has drawn up. Since the revolution, sanctions by the US have directly targeted Iran’s energy sector and decreased oil and gas production capacity, meaning that despite possessing the world’s second largest natural gas reserves, Iran now contributes just less than 1% of global natural gas. During the Obama administration, many foreign companies which were active in Iran’s energy sector withdrew from Iran, making it unable to reach its goal to increase natural gas production capacity. Iran planned to build five LNG facilities to produce 70 million ton of LNG annually to enter the LNG market.

 

Ali Kheyr Andandish, Iranian Managing Director of Natural Gas Liquidation states that if the LNG project can be implemented and produce the projected 80 million tons of gas, Iran will rank fourth among global exporters, but could also reach fifth place with a respectable 20 million tons. Plans have since been scaled back, with the country aiming to reach only seventh or eighth place in the world with a production of 10 million tons. Regarding gas pipeline routes, Iran’s planned pipeline through Iraq to Syria and on to Europe has been welcomed by European countries, and if conditions are favorable, European partners are looking to participate in the development of these plans. Iran’s gas exports to Europe via pipelines and LNG are in progress, allowing for multiple purchase mechanisms.

 

At present, Iran’s priority is to complete its LNG project with a production capacity of 10 million tons per year. The project is 52% in progress, and $4-6 billion is needed to complete work. So far, negotiations have been ongoing with foreign companies to complete the project, but all have yet to be concluded.

 

Iran has a number of plans to attract foreign capital and technology to become an LNG exporter. One of Iran’s plans include exporting natural gas to Oman via a planned Iran-Oman natural gas pipeline and using Omani LNG facilities to transit gas further afield. The Iran-Oman natural gas project plans to produce and export around 2 million tons of gas per year.The planned pipeline would connect Iran’s vast gas reserves with Omani consumers as well as with liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants in Oman that could re-export the gas mainly to Asian market. In 2013, the two countries signed an agreement to supply gas to Oman through the new pipeline in a deal valued at $60 billion over 25 years.

 

Iran’s other plans include producing LNG using Russian technology and capital. In 2017, Gazprom showed interest by signing an agreement with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to build an LNG gas facility. The joint geopolitical strategies of Russia and Iran have paved the way for the broad cooperation of two companies, especially in the field of oil and gas. This autumn, Gazprom signed a two-year deal with Iran on natural gas liquefaction (LNG) and contributed to the project to build a gas pipeline and transport natural gas from Iran to Pakistan and India. By December 2017, Iranian officials announced a six-month window in which Gazprom was invited to work on the project. However, further action has not been forthcoming and negotiations have so far led nowhere.

 

After the nuclear agreement was signed, Iran invited foreign companies to invest in the country’s five LNG plans, also asking Chinese energy firms to build small scale LNG facilities. In May 2016, the director of Iran’s national gas export company stated that Chinese companies ought to invest in the construction of CNG units and mini-LNGs in Iran, adding that Iran  was ready to supply LNG units. Again, no progress has been made in this regard.

 

Given developments in the energy market and the probable opposition by the Trump government of Iran’s recent missile tests, attracting foreign capital and technology to the Iranian energy industry, especially the LNG industry, looks harder than ever. Furthermore, due to the saturation of the LNG market, now with the assumption of raising funds, Iran has little chance of active participation in this sector. With the long-term planning, attracting the necessary capital and increasing LNG production with the establishment of new LNGs, it might be possible to have an effective presence on this market. Risk reduction in the country will encourage foreign companies to invest in Iran.

 

Iran has signed an agreement to produce LNG with Norway’s IFLNG , with natural gas to be provided by the South Pars seventh refinery to ships able to convert natural gas to LNG for transfer to sale in East Asian markets. In February 2018, Iran cancelled this agreement.

 

Iran’s plans to build small scale of LNG facilities are riddled with issues of their own. There is no guarantee that after the US withdrawal from the JCPOA they will remain interested in the Iran LNG sector, while another problem is the limitation of Chinese NOCs’ tech and capital capacities.  To sum up, if Iran is planning to become LNG exporter and plays role in LNG market needs to revise its foreign policy another problem is that to attract foreign investment Iran needs a legal framework, an efficient and fast decision process and political stability (especially in the international context). These variables are far from being achieved as we speak. Iran needs regional diplomacy in the field of energy to maintain regional markets, while the resolution of tensions with its neighbors will have a positive impact on the expansion of Iranian markets.

https://uwidata.com/

 

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Beyond The Deal: Turkish-Iranian Energy Relations In The Post-Sanctions Era

Because of the EU/U.S. sanctions regime against Iran’s energy sector, the country’s oil and gas production capacities have been decimated. Following the signing of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—Iran hoped the country would attract more foreign investment and reverse the damage caused to its oil and gas industry.

 

Meanwhile, with growing domestic energy demands, neighboring Turkey is in dire need of energy supplies from reliable sources and wants to diversify its its energy resources. Thus, both countries are in the ideal situation to develop a mutually beneficial energy relationship. Yet, as many challenges as opportunities lie ahead.

 

Iran and Turkey signed their first energy agreement in 1978, just before the Iranian Revolution, with Iran agreeing to supply the country with one million tons of oil. By the Ahmadinejad era (before EU and U.S. sanctions were launched against Iran’s nuclear program), Iran had become Turkey’s largest oil supplier with the latter relying on Iran for 43.13% of its oil. With the onset of sanctions, Iraq replaced Iran as Turkey’s number one supplier. By 2015, with a deal to end sanctions, Turkey began importing around 20% of its oil and 18% of natural gas from Iran.

 

Since the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA, however, Turkey has once again decreased the amount of oil it imports from Iran. Turkey imported about 174 000 barrels per day from Iran between January and June 2018—down 27% from the year before—with Russian and Iraqi suppliers gaining lost ground.

 

Turkey signed an agreement to purchase 10 billion cubic meters annually of Iranian natural gas in 1996. Iranian natural gas exports to Turkey made up around 90% of the country’s total natural gas exports. Due to high domestic consumption in Iran, especially in winter, gas exports were curtailed to the frustration of those in the south of Turkey who were directly affected by the resulting supply deficit. According to the conditions of the agreement, if Iran were unable to export the agreed amount to Turkey, then the case would be referred to the International Court of Arbitration (ICA) with Iran incurring a heavy fine. At present, Turkey has no integrated natural gas infrastructure and needs Iranian natural gas to supply its southern regions in the winter.

 

Between 2009 and 2012, Turkey often complained about the quality and price of Iranian natural gas, and took its complaint to the ICA, which ordered Iran to pay Turkey part of its $1.9 billion debt with free natural gas supplies. The current agreement is set to end by 2026, and both countries must sign a new agreement to extend their relationship. Iran asked Turkey to double the amount of natural gas it imports from Iran in return for a discount in price. However, as of October 2018, no major progress has been made in negotiation, and if Iran and Turkey cannot sign a new agreement Iran will likely lose a major market. At present, Turkey is party to several transit projects. Once these go online, it will be doubly difficult for Iran to rely on its custom.

 

Furthermore, Turkey has begun to import natural gas from Azerbaijan and has also signed an agreement to receive 31.5 billion cubic meters annually from Russia. The United States, developing its shale gas, also supplies Turkey with liquid natural gas. At present, Turkey is the second major U.S. LNG importer in Europe and might come to rely more on the United States if an energy agreement with Iran cannot be extended. Turkey also imports LNG from Qatar,and is planning to expand this agreement in the future. Turkey has made huge investments in LNG storage facilities to increase the share of LNG in its energy basket in the mid-to-long-term future. Turkey also invests in renewable energy, eventually hoping to decrease foreign dependency in the long term.

 

Turkish private and state energy firms are interested in investment opportunities in the Iranian energy sector, with state energy company Botas signing deals to support work on phases 22-24 of the South Pars Field project in 2007 and 2008. Iran and Qatar share the South Pars Field together. Botas was to invest $12 billion in three phases, with half the production going to Turkey and the rest to the EU. However, due to EU and U.S. sanctions, these agreements were cancelled.

 

By 2015, and after the nuclear agreement, Iranian officials frequently called for around $200 billion in foreign investment and technology to revive its oil and gas production. In 2017, Turkey’s Unit International, Russia’s state-owned Zarubezhneft, and Iran’s Ghadir Investment Holding agreed to drill for oil and natural gas in Iran. This deal, worth $7 billion, involves work on three oil fields and one large natural gas field in the country. Unit International also has signed an agreement with Iran’s Energy Ministry to build power plants in other parts of Iran. This agreement, worth $4.2 billion, will boost capacity by 5000 megawatts. However, Unit International will likely withdraw from Iran’s energy sector due to U.S. pressure.

 

Still, Iran offers exciting prospect for Turkish investors. This investment can ensure Turkey achieve its goal of becoming a transit hub for moving gas and oil supplies from supplier countries to world markets. Although Turkey has at times complained about the quality and price of Iranian gas, the question is whether Iran will be able to be become a reliable supplier for Turkey in the post-sanctions era. Iran needs to press for an extension of the gas agreement with its Turkish counterparts. If Turkey does not extend this agreement, then the results will be a serious step back for Iran. Iran also needs Turkey to send its natural gas to Europe in the mid-term in order to regain its position among suppliers.

 

Turkish energy firms hold the power to provide Iran with needed investment, so Iran will be heavily dependent on Turkey for the foreseeable time. If Iran is interested in retaining its share in Turkey’s energy market, it must revise its regional policy and aim to solve problems with the United States, using the potential of its energy supplies to its advantage and attracting foreign investment to develop its facilities. Iran needs to offer Turkey a higher discount in order to sway the country from the temptations of U.S. and Qatari LNG and Russian and Azerbaijani natural gas. Further, Iran needs to develop a domestic legal framework that better facilitates contracting and granting commercial rights. At present, however, these problems are far from being resolved.

 

Omid Shokri Kalehsar is a Washington-based energy security analyst. Follow him at @ushukrik and uskenergy.com.

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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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Steps Ahead: Russia’s Gazprom Outfoots Europe, Mulls LNG Plant in Iran

Russia’s Gazprom is going to sign a contract with the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) to build a liquefied gas plant in the Islamic Republic. The facility will use natural gas from Iran’s South Pars and the end product will be exported to India, Cambodia and Laos.

The two sides are likely to finalize the contract at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forumopening today, Iran Daily reported, citing Fars News Agency.
In an interview with Sputnik, independent Iranian energy expert Omid Shokri Kalehsar said that by pitching such a contract to the Iranians, Gazprom had outpaced its European partners as Iran was only panning to hold tenders for the building of LNG-producing mini-plants.

“The ground for the launch of a number of major bilateral projects, including in the energy sector, was prepared when President Hassan Rouhani visited Moscow in March. European and Russian companies waited for the end of the presidential elections in Iran to thrash out a deal, butr Gazprom got ahead of them all negotiating with our Energy Ministry and NIOC the construction of an LNG plant,” Kalehsar told Sputnik Persian.

He added that with a new government now in place in Tehran, Russia was likely to bolster its position in the Iranian gas sector and that the signature of a pertinent agreement would come as a big step forward in this direction.

Southeast Asia tops the list of Iran’s trading partners and liquefied gas could be a welcome addition to the Iranian exports to the region.

“In view of the growing consumption of liquefied natural gas in a populous country like India, the construction of an LNG plant is highly justified and Russian companies could be of great help here. We could start by setting up a joint venture (by Gazprom and NIOC) to build such a plant and could then export compressed gas to Laos, Cambodia and India,” Omid Shokri Kalehsar continued.

Nikolai Kozhanov, an Iranian-affairs expert in St. Petersburg, pointed to the problems with the planned construction of an LNG plant in Iran.

 “I’m skeptical about export-oriented gas projects in Iran, all the more so when we talk about LNG technologies. One problem is that Iran is consuming more natural gas than it produces and I don’t think it will be have enough gas to sell abroad any time soon. Another problem is that the technology of LNG production is still in a development stage in Russia, which cannot buy them abroad due to the sanctions. That’s why I think that Gazprom is either working for the long haul or has a way to acquire the knowhow and equipment from its Western partners,” Kozhanov said.

“I still don’t believe that such a project could be implemented in Iran, at least for now,” he added.

Russia is planning to expand economic cooperation with the Islamic Republic of Iran in the oil and gas industry to ensure sustainable economic development, President Vladimir Putin said after meeting his Iranian counterpart, Hassan Rouhani in Moscow

https://sputniknews.com/middleeast/201706011054197815-russia-iran-lng/

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