Gas Export Talks With Afghans

Gas Export Talks  With Afghans  Gas Export Talks  With Afghans

The director for international affairs at the National Iranian Gas Co. Azizolah Ramezani, said Sunday, “Afghanistan is a potential and lucrative market for Iran’s gas and it is very likely that it will buy gas from Iran. However, they do not seem to be prepared to import natural gas from us due to their undeveloped energy infrastructure.”

According to Shana news agency, Hamidreza Araghi, managing director of National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) is of the opinion that gas business seems ambiguous for Afghans as they have never engaged in such a trade in the past.   

 This also helps explain why holding talks with them have so far not produced the desired results. However, despite the fact that they lack the basic systems and infrastructure, namely gas pipelines and a national gas grid, we intend to continue negotiations until an agreement is finalized."

According to Araghi, private firms are presently holding talks with the Afghans to supply the border regions with much-needed gas. He did not elaborate or name the private businesses and companies wanting a gas contract with the war-ravaged and impoverished neighboring country.

Highlighting that gas exports to Europe is now not a priority, Alireza Kameli, managing director of National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) reiterated that gas exports to that continent is deemed economically unviable. "We can supply gas to the Persian Gulf littoral states just by laying 200 kilometers of pipelines. But for Europe we will have to lay a 4000-km pipeline."

On Iran's vast natural gas reserves, Kameli said, "We will not and should not limit ourselves to a few neighboring states. We need to keep a close eye on international markets. Exporting compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG) is also on the agenda in the short term and can  transform Iran into a major player in the global gas market," the news agency quoted him as saying.

  Once a Major Exporter

Natural gas was Afghanistan's sole economically significant export in 1995, going mainly to Uzbekistan via pipeline de marde. Natural gas reserves were once estimated at 140 billion cubic meters. Production started in 1967 with 342 million cu m but had risen to 2.6 billion cubic meters by 1995. In 1991, a new gas field was discovered in Chekhcha, Jowzjan Province.

In August 1996, a multinational consortium agreed to construct a 1,430 km pipeline through Afghanistan to carry natural gas from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, at a cost of about $2 billion.

However, US air strikes led to cancellation of the project in 1998, and financing of such a project has remained an issue because of high political risk and security concerns. As of 2012, the leaders of four countries had signed an agreement to build the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.

Energy in Afghanistan is primarily provided by hydropower. Two decades of warfare have left the country's power grid badly damaged. As of 2012, approximately 33% of the population had access to electricity. In the capital Kabul, 70% have access to reliable 24-hour electricity.