Tehran Hosts GECF Ministerial Meetings

Tehran Hosts GECF  Ministerial Meetings
Tehran Hosts GECF  Ministerial Meetings

An extraordinary ministerial meeting of Gas Exporting Countries Forum was held in Tehran early Saturday, followed by a regular meeting later in the day.

Iran's Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh and Emmanuel Ibe Kachikwu, head of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, chaired the above meetings, respectively.

"The participation of many heads of state and ministers in the Third GECF Summit shows its importance for its members," Zanganeh said in a speech on Saturday, IRNA reported.

He held separate meetings on Friday with Qatar's Energy and Industry Minister Mohammed Saleh Abdulla al-Sada, Trinidad and Tobago Energy Minister Nicole Olivierre and Algerian Energy Minister Salah Khebri.

Zanganeh continued his one-on-one talks on Saturday by meeting Venezuela's Petroleum and Mining Minister Eulogio Antonio del Pino Diaz.

GECF ministers adopted a joint statement during the extraordinary meeting on issues such as climate change and "Gas and Sustainable Development"—the main theme of the summit.

The statement will be presented as a roadmap for reducing global emissions in the Paris climate conference slated for November 30.

The second meeting was a platform to discuss issues, such as the forum's budget and the position of GECF secretary-general, currently held by Iran's Mohammad Hossein Adeli. Despite Libya's interest in the position, Adeli is expected to remain as the GECF secretary-general.

Established in Tehran in 2001, GECF is an intergovernmental organization of 11 of the world's leading natural gas producers, namely Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela. Iraq, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman and Peru have the status of observer members.

GECF members together control over 70% of the world's natural gas reserves, 38% of the pipeline trade and 85% of the LNG production. The three largest reserve-holders in the GECF—Iran, Russia and Qatar—together hold about 57% of global gas reserves.

Russians Optimistic

Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak, who arrived in Tehran Friday night ahead of President Vladimir Putin's planned visit to the Iranian capital next week, said Moscow seeks the highest level of cooperation with GECF members.

"The convention is an opportunity to look beyond energy ties and explore intergovernmental issues," Novak was quoted as saying by Moj News Agency.

Novak also said the GECF reaffirms the importance of long-term gas contracts, the take-or-pay mechanism and a link between gas price and oil price.

The Russian minister last visited Tehran in October at the head of a 40-strong delegation of Russian companies in the oil, gas, petrochemical, power plant and railroad industries to explore investment opportunities in post-sanctions Iran.

Zanganeh had earlier said the prospect of oil and gas swap agreements with Russia, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will also be discussed during the summit.

The summit will bring together on Monday the heads of state from nine countries, including Russia, Bolivia, Iraq, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria and Venezuela.

Among scheduled meetings on Monday, Putin is expected to meet President Hassan Rouhani and will later meet with the Leader of Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Khamenei before leaving for Moscow.

Decisive Denouement

GECF chief Mohammad Hossein Adeli said the outcome of the Third GECF Summit in Tehran will be decisive for the global gas market.

"The Third GECF summit is especially important because it is scheduled shortly after the the G-20 meeting in Antalya and ahead of COP 21 (the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference) in Paris," he said.

Adeli added that natural gas–one of the cleanest fossil fuels and a highly efficient form of energy—is an integral part of sustainable development.

Unlike the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries that regulates global crude prices, the GECF serves as a policymaking platform and does not decide on natural gas prices.

But Deputy Oil Minister Amirhossein Zamaninia hoped the GECF "will mature in time to gradually play a role in (gas) supplies and prices".

According to the official, Iran's gas output is set to reach 1.3 billion cubic meters per day by 2021, an ambitious plan that would turn Iran into one of the world's biggest gas producers in the next decade.