Strategic Port Deal with US May Affect Iran-Oman Relations


The deal will improve the United States’ ability to develop power in the Persian Gulf. 

Oman has been able to steer clear of regional disputes in recent years and play a more balanced role in the Gulf while maintaining good relationships with both Iran and the United States.

However, US sanctions against the Iranian oil sector have challenged the bulk of Iran’s energy transit and export plans, including the Iran-Oman natural gas pipeline.

The United States and Oman have signed an agreement allowing Washington to use Omani ports for commercial, military and security purposes. The agreement gives US military forces better access to the Arabian Gulf and fewer ships will need to sail through the Strait of Hormuz.

The deal will improve the United States’ ability to develop power in the Persian Gulf. The port of Duqm is strategically located outside the Strait of Hormuz and is 550km from Muscat. It’s an ideal port for the development of the sector.

Iran expressed interest in using the same ports and has many times threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, which is a strategic oil shipment route, in response to hostile US actions.

The strait, a sensitive position in pipeline projects, has always been a source of conflict between Iran and the United States. In August 2018, the United States claimed full control over the oil and gas pipelines in the area and threatened to resort to force if Iran disrupted passage of ships from the area.

Regardless of the US presence in the region and the various deals signed with Arab countries, Iran’s ties with countries such as Oman remain strong and significant.

By the end of 2018, Iran-Oman trade volume totalled approximately $1 billion. The development of a maritime transport fleet between the two countries, the facilitation of visa issuance for Iranian and Omani nationals, the increase in Iranian companies in Oman and the more competitive prices of Iranian exports in Oman have improved relations between the parties.

In 2013, Iran and Oman signed a memorandum of understanding on natural gas exports. With Iran’s implementation, the gas pipeline ran directly from the Gulf to Oman.

The 25-year contract for the transfer of Iranian gas to Oman through the pipeline was worth $6 billion. Tehran and Muscat agreed to issue 1 billion cubic feet of gas per day from Iran to Oman. Part of the gas would be converted to liquid natural gas (LNG) in target markets. The remaining capacity of the pipeline would involve future markets in the southern Persian Gulf.

Iran and Oman have agreed to change the route and design of the Iran-Oman submarine pipeline to avoid crossing UAE territorial waters. Iran’s gas pipelines to Oman would pass through a depth of about 1,000 metres, instead of 300 metres, so its distance would be slightly shorter and doesn’t cross UAE territory.

Iran has five LNG projects but, because of sanctions, these projects are incomplete. Iran planned to use natural gas to export to Oman and use some of this natural gas to produce LNG in Omani facilities.

Even if the strategic agreement between the United States and Oman does not affect the Iran-Oman natural gas project, Iran will have a hard time completing its natural gas projects and oil production capacity recovery projects without solving its problems with the West over human rights abuses and missile programme development.
https://thearabweekly.com

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The Effects Of U.S. Sanctions On Iran’s Natural Gas Projects

Iran holds the second largest natural gas reserves in the world. Despite this advantage, the country controls less than one percent of the world’s natural gas market. Nevertheless, Iran is the third largest gas producer and, over the past few years, has focused on increasing its share of the global gas market. By the end of 2017, according to the National Iranian Gas Company, Iran was producing 800 million cubic meters per day. Iran’s short-term intention is to increase the volume of gas available for export by 365 million cubic meters per day by 2021.

Exporting natural gas takes a back seat in terms of priorities to more immediate economic considerations like boosting investment into oil fields, satisfying domestic consumption, and expanding gas-based industries. Iran has 50 independent gas fields, of which currently only 23 are developed and producing. Iran’s largest gas field at South Pars, with reserves of 14 trillion cubic meters, accounts for around 40 percent of the country’s gas reserves. In 2017, Iran produced 130 billion cubic meters of natural gas from this field. Iran plans to complete Phase 11 in the next two years so that it can produce about 180 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. But based on estimates from the Ministry of Oil, South Pars will experience a significant drop in pressure, known as the “dew point,” probably around 2023.

In 2015, after the signing of the nuclear agreement, Iranian officials repeated calls for an injection of around $100 billion in foreign investment into the country’s oil, gas, and petrochemical sector. Most of Iran’s oil wells have entered the second half of their lives. With 8 percent of oil production dropping automatically year on year, Iran desperately needs technology and capital from foreign countries just to stabilize its oil production. The U.S. ban on companies engaging in dollar deals with Iran, however, means that large financial institutions risk heavy fines from the Treasury Department, thus hampering any progress in Iran’s ability to gain such investments through formal and legal restrictions.

Iran signed major agreements with foreign companies in the natural gas sector, including contracts for the development of the 11th phase of the South Pars field with both French and Chinese partners designed to increase the production capacity of the field by 56 million cubic meters per day. After the U.S. withdrawal from the nuclear deal, however, the French company Total abandoned the contract, and China National Petroleum Corporation officials stated that only they would remain in Iran’s natural gas sector. However, Chinese companies do not have a good record in Iran’s oil industry. For instance, several Chinese companies have delayed work in the Azadegan Fields for no good reason. Also, Chinese firms with interests in the United States or in U.S.-funded projects may be reluctant to invest in Iran.

According to Mohammad Hassan Adeli, former secretary general of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, sanctions are one of the main reasons for Iran’s failure in its gas export policy. However, other factors include the long process of achieving consensus on big decisions in Iran and a prevailing opinion among Iranian policy makers that gas should only be consumed domestically or turned into petrochemical products.

Iran has plans to increase its export of natural gas to other countries. For instance, Iran and Pakistan began work on a pipeline in March 2013 that would send 1.5 million cubic meters per day natural gas to Pakistan. However, US sanctions against Iran may force Pakistan to seek a less controversial alternative. Iran is also eyeing the European market. But gas exports to Europe face two major problems. Firstly, traditionally, Russia has dominated this market and Iran cannot hope to play as large a role as Russia in supplying gas to Europe. Second, in order to export Iranian gas via pipeline to Europe, Iran must secure transit through several intermediary countries.

Given recent developments in the energy market—not to mention the sanctions imposed by the Trump government—attracting foreign capital and technology to the Iranian energy industry, especially the natural gas industry, carries none of the optimism of previous years.

Foreign private companies have enough financial resources to make a splash in the Iranian market. But attracting foreign investment requires a suitable legal framework and an efficient and fast decision process, as well as political stability. In addition, Iran needs to revise its foreign policy and solve its issues with neighbors as well as the West. With neither foreign technology nor capital, Iran will not be able to produce more oil and gas to export to neighbors, let alone export to the EU.

At present, major natural gas producers such as Russia and the United States have made huge investments in their own natural gas sectors. If these major natural gas producers control the regional and world gas markets, Iran is likely to struggle to find importers. Boosting Iran’s share of the market from one percent to 10 percent, as the government would like to do, is possible only with foreign investment, which requires a reduction of political risk in the country and an effort to eliminate tension with neighboring countries.

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Supporting TAPI, S Arabia tries to decrease Iran’s regional role: Expert

The long-awaited mega gas pipeline project of Turk­menistan, Afghanis­tan, Pakis­tan and India (TAPI) connecting the energy-rich Central Asian nation with the South Asian countries was inaugurated couple of days ago, with leaders of the four countries attending its groundbreaking ceremony in Serhetabat followed by another in Herat.

Considering the facts on the ground including political differences of the involved countries in the project and also insecurity and instability in the region many experts believe the successful realization of the project will depend on the ability of the project participants to maneuver through among others geopolitical, financial and technical challenges.

To discuss the issue, we reached out to Omid Shokri Kalehsar, Senior Energy Security Analyst in Washington.

 

Following is the full text of interview with him:

 

Considering the differences between India and Pakistan and instability and insecurity in Afghanistan and Pakistan, how successful do you see the future of this project?

 

The 1,814-kilometer gas pipeline will pass through Afghanistan to Pakistan and India. At least 816 kilometers of the pipeline will pass through the territory of Afghanistan. Transport or transit security is an important part of pipeline project beside of security of supply and demand security, financial guarantee and financial sources are another key factors in any pipeline project.

 

The Turkmen economy has been fueled primarily by natural gas. Turkmenistan holds 32 trillion cubic meters of natural gas, the world’s fourth-largest reserves. With a small domestic market, Turkmenistan has been able to export the majority of what it produces. With regard to increasing energy demand in India, this country needs diversify energy supply, gas resources in Central Asia especially in Turkmenistan would be one of these resources. This project also would be beneficial for both Pakistan as consumer and transit country and for India as importer. There is a political tension in India and Pakistan relations and maybe TAPI would have positive effect of regional cooperation, stability and security. TAPI may be key factor in India- Pakistan relations to decrease tensions and develop bilateral relations. TAPI natural gas pipeline -which aims to connect Central Asian energy to South Asian consumers -each involve a high degree of intra-regional cooperation. Pakistan will gain transit fee from this project and also will consume natural gas imported by it.

 

 

How can this project affect the economy and security of the region particularly Afghanistan?

 

According to contract, Afghanistan will import gas via this project to meet it domestic demand and will gain $400000 to $500000 annually transit fee. This will help Afghanistan to gain more and partly recover its damaged economy. TAPI project will help Afghanistan to be an actor in regional energy market. The pipeline will pass through the provinces of Herat, Farah, Nimroz, Helmand and Kandahar. Taliban control these provinces. In statement which Taliban sent to local media, this group declared that they will not allow any group or state to disrupt this project. As Taliban controls this region, security threats against TAPI project in this part of Afghanistan will decrease and security concern will down.

 

Why does Saudi Arabia support the project?

 

These countries hold major oil reserves in the region and are trying to play an important role in OPEC and world energy market as well. Current tensions in bilateral relation forced countries to use any means to decrease counterpart role in regional security stability.  Saudi Arabia has expressed support for the TAPI transnational gas pipeline. Saudi’s financial support for TAPI would help Pakistan not to need Iranian gas. And it means that Iran will lose Pakistan natural gas market if TAPI materialize project. Last decade India was interested to buy Iran natural gas via Peace Pipeline, but due to US pressure this project did not materialize. It seems that when TAPI comes to online, India no more will be interested to Iran natural gas.  Pakistan and Afghanistan are Iran electricity buyer, during inaugural ceremony Pakistan and Turkmenistan agreed to export electricity from Turkmenistan to Pakistan and maybe in near future if this electricity export project materialize, Pakistan decrease electricity volume which imported from Iran.

 

What are the challenges and opportunities of the project for Iran?

 

Iran has plans to export natural gas to its neighbors, according to Iran 20 years development plan, Iran has to increase its share from world natural gas to %10. Iran signed agreement with Pakistan, Oman, and Iraq to export gas. At present only Iran-Iraq pipeline near to officially open. Pakistan is planning to import more LNG from Qatar, and last week Russian giant Gazprom announced that it  is considering the potential of delivering liquefied natural gas (LNG) supplies to Pakistan by October 2017, Pakistan and Russia signed an intergovernmental cooperation agreement for the delivery of liquefied natural gas in October last year. Pakistan currently has two LNG import terminals in operation in Karachi, however, with a total capacity of around 9.5 mtpa, a significant supply shortfall of 19 million tons of LNG per annum is still expected. It seems that if TAPI will be successful and Pakistan import more LNG from Qatar and Russia there is no more need for Iran natural gas and Iran-Pakistan pipeline.

 

How do you evaluate Iran’s energy diplomacy?

 

Energy diplomacy is a reaction to geopolitical threats and limits. In other words, using diplomatic mobility, economic planning, developing technical capacities and using economic resources to provide all conditions required for activating energy diplomacy. Iran’s share in the world energy market is insignificant. Iran could play a more active role in the world energy market, and mobility in production, export, marketing, exploration and extraction in the energy sector could create a special position for every country. Iran must be more active in foreign diplomacy to eliminate problems with its neighbors.

 

Interview by Payman Yazdani

https://en.mehrnews.com/

 

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