The Future Of Iran-Pakistan Energy Relations

Energy relations form one of the main pillars of Iranian-Pakistani relations. In 1990, increased domestic demand for natural gas led Pakistan to begin negotiations to export gas from Iran. India’s growing energy demand led to joint support for a 2,700-kilometer “Peace Pipeline” that would allow India and Pakistan to import Iranian resources. According to the initial agreement, 1,100 kilometers would be constructed in Iran, 1,000 kilometers in Pakistan, and 600 kilometers in India. A projected 150 million cubic meters of gas would be exported daily to India and Pakistan, with 90 million cubic meters for India and 60 million cubic meters for Pakistan.

In 2011, however, due to U.S. pressure, India withdrew its support for the Peace Pipeline. This was bad news for Iran, which hoped that the pipeline would help develop and expand its friendship and cooperation in the region. Nevertheless, Iran completed the required pipeline to deliver natural gas from South Pars to the Iran-Pakistan border by December 2014. But Islamabad has not taken any practical steps to keep to its end of the deal.

Pakistan’s former Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman has stated that in order to achieve long-term goals of regional stability, Pakistan’s national interest require new energy transit projects. Pakistan supports the economic strengthening of the region and has stated that the energy and energy sectors are important factors in realizing regional political and economic goals. But it has increasingly looked to places other than Iran to develop these resources.

One of Pakistan’s alternatives to diversifying energy resource is the TAPI project, a U.S.-backed rival to the Peace Pipeline proposed back in 1990 to deliver Turkmen natural gas to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan. India joined the project in 2008. The leaders of the four countries signed an implementation contract in December 2015, and practical work finally began in 2016. The first gas will start to flow in early 2020. The project will cost an estimated $7-9 billion and will transfer 90 million cubic meters of gas per day to these countries.

Liquified natural gas (LNG) now forms 50 percent of Pakistan’s energy basket, and this will increase in coming years due to Pakistan’s new agreements with LNG suppliers. In February 2015, Pakistan signed a $21 billion deal to buy 500 million cubic feet of gas a day from Qatar. The arrival of Qatari gas will alleviate but not solve Pakistan’s energy crisis. So, Pakistan is looking elsewhere. Because of the shale gas revolution, the United States became an energy exporter by 2017 and plans to send about 3 million cubic feet to Pakistan. The Russian energy giant Gazprom is also considering the possibility of supplying 5-7 million tons of LNG annually to Pakistan. In July 2014, Pakistan and Gazprom signed an agreement to construct three LNG terminals, and the first shipment arrived in July 2015. Pakistan and Azerbaijan also signed deals in 2016 for the latter to supply electricity, crude and refined oil products, and both LNG and liquefied petroleum gas (LPG). The Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR will begin delivering LNG to Pakistan in the coming months.

At present, Pakistan lacks 4,000-7,000 megawatts of the energy it needs. Iran is a natural place to turn. But the cost of Iran’s gas is too expensive for use in Pakistan’s power plants. The electricity generated from Pakistan’s power plants, mainly located in Baluchistan province, costs $3.5 per one million units, while the figure for Iran’s gas is $12. Increasingly Pakistan is looking east. Thanks to the China-Pakistan economic corridor, Islamabad will soon be able to generate electricity from coal-fired power plants and import electricity from places like Turkmenistan. The larger goal of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project is to turn the Gwadar Port into an energy hub in the region. Islamabad is also trying to address part of its electricity shortage through other projects such as the Casa 1000 project, which is designed to boost the electricity trade between the Central Asian countries of Tajikistan and Kyrgyz Republic and the South Asian countries of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Iran needs to rely on energy diplomacy to maintain regional markets and especially to reduce tensions with neighbors, thereby paving the way for advanced economic benefits. Pakistan is investing in renewables and planning to increase the share of renewables in its national energy basket with the construction of a hybrid solar-wind energy system to bring energy to rural areas. If Pakistan can attract foreign capital and technology to build required energy infrastructure (such as LNG terminal and pipelines), it will require less Iranian natural gas and electricity, instead relying on others to make up the shortfall. U.S. sanctions against Iran will be another factor influencing Pakistan’s preference for energy partners.

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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.


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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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The fate of Iran’s energy development plans under US pressure

Tehran, Iran, November 18

By Mehdi Sepahvand – Trend:

A recent expression of doubt by Patrick Pouyanné, the chief executive officer of France’s energy giant Total, whether to carry out cooperation with Iran has strengthened worries over the fate of Iran’s energy development projects.


Omid Shokri, a Washington-based energy analyst, told Trend November 18 that “Total or any other oil and gas company is interested to have good relations with US,” adding, it is possible for Total to withdraw from South Pars field.


Total’s chief executive officer last week said under political pressure, his company is liable to leave the $4.8 billion deal with Iran. “If we cannot do that for legal reasons, because of [a] change of [the] regime of sanctions, then we have to revisit it,” he said.


Total last week increased its US presence with the purchase of a portfolio of liquefied natural gas assets from Engie (ENGIY), including the company’s stake in the Cameron LNG project in Louisiana, one of the first new gas export terminals in North America.


Sealed a few months ago, the deal with Total over the development of South Pars gas field used to be vied by Iran as an icebreaker and itself a discouragement for new sanctions on Iran.

However, last month US President Donald Trump unveiled a tough and comprehensive new policy towards Iran. He accused Tehran of violating the 2015 nuclear accord (which had paved the way for removal of sanctions) and announced that he would no longer certify that the lifting of sanctions was in US interests.


Shokri believes that major to-be partners of Iran’s oil and gas companies are waiting for US Congress decision about Iran and nuclear agreement.


This is while Iran used to cherish the nuclear deal as a means to open way for the development of its oil and gas industries, which had been kept outdated by years-long sanctions.

Iran’s economy is heavily oil-dependent. In the early 2010s, sanctions efficiently stifled the country’s oil revenues as its exports dropped from 2.3 mbpd to 1 mbpd.


Iran’s oil, gas, and petrochemical infrastructure are not by far as efficient as they could. Many of the country’s oil fields are in the second half of their lives and need restoration or else they lose profitability.

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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

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