Iranian gas more weighty than reactor28.09.2009 | 15:00
Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder is lobbying Iran's engagement in Nabucco project. The participation of a country with the world's second largest gas deposits will accelerate construction making the pipeline cost-effective. For Georgia it's fraught with the loss of part of potential transit incomes and for Russia - the South Stream competitor's final victory. Do the two countries have common interests?
Gerhard Schröder proposed Iran's involvement in Nabucco project. The German politician is "Nord Stream" member of the board engaged in North Stream project. So his doubts about the cost-effectiveness of the gas flow with undetermined sources are indicative.
Nabucco is planned to run 3.3 thousand km from Central Asia via Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to the EU bypassing Russia. Its projected capacity is 31 bn cubic meters of gas per year and the estimated cost of the project is EUR 7.9 bn.
"I favor the implementation of the Nabucco pipeline because we need extra gas imports to Europe, but there is one thing we have to remember - we have enough natural gas to fill the Nord and South Stream project, but not for Nabucco", - Schröder underlined at the 4th Eurasian energy forum Kazenergy. According to him in order to justify construction costs Nabucco must be filled with gas from Iran. "This is right because it offers another opportunity for gas shipments to Europe", - he said.
As for Iran's intentions to develop nuclear weapons Schröder confessed the European Union would have to leave this fundamental objection behind. "The EU will need strength to settle political differences on the issue of sanctions against Iran and energy supplies from the country", - the ex chancellor said.
In September Iran (that a while ago refused to take part in the European project) expressed a clear wish to join Nabucco. According to Turkish media the representatives of Iranian and Turkish Embassies stated the country could provide Nabucco with 10 bn cubic meters of gas per year. Iranian Ambassador to Azerbaijan Muhammed Bagir Bakhrami stated at a press conference that without Iran the construction of this pipeline is absolutely impossible complaining that some countries, especially the USA are against Iran's involvement in the project, Trend IA reports.
Judging by Schröder's statement the Western political elite is not so principled and gas is more important for them than nuclear issues. In the meantime Russia is building friendly relations with Iran helping in nuclear reactor construction without fear that the transferred technologies will allow Teheran to create nuclear weapons. In case Iran becomes a real competitor in gas supplies Moscow might change its policy. It might join the UN resolution stipulating stringent sanctions against Iran and revoke its specialists from Bushehr, the APS construction site.
Besides Moscow could include ban on participation in transport of energy carriers into the resolution which would put a halt on Nabucco project, Gela Vasadze, a Georgian expert advises. In this case Georgian, US and Russian aspirations will meet. Tbilisi might lose a considerable share of profits unless Nabucco's main part flows along Georgian territory from Central Asia and not through Iran to Turkey.
Technically it's feasible given the existence of the Teheran-Ankara gas pipe. So Tbilisi is not happy about the Iran option. The USA will achieve their aim if Moscow agrees to the nuclear sanctions. And Russia will again leave Nabucco half empty.
On the other hand Schröder's statement can now be considered as a deliberate attempt to split Russia and Iran aimed at making Russia support those who advocate shutdown of Iran's nuclear program. All the more so that some specialists don't think Iranian gas is so vital for Nabucco. In an interview with Kommersant newspaper the head of OMV oil and gas group (Austria) Wolfgang Ruttenstorfer stated that the volumes from Azerbaijan, Iraq and Egypt are enough for the launch of Nabucco. This is 15-16 bn cubic meters in 2015. "The first two countries will supply 7-8 bn cubic meters per year, Egypt - around 1-2 bn. Turkmenia is considered as a gas source in the long-term outlook", - he remarked.
However the countries Ruttenstorfer mentioned are not completely reliable suppliers. Azerbaijan has gas contracts with Russia at above-market prices and will bargain with the EU in order not to lose even a bit of its profits. The pipeline from Egypt has to be constructed still. As for Iraqi gas flowing through Turkish Kurdistan there has to security and political stability both in Iraq and in Turkish Kurdistan, as Alexey Kuzmin, chairman of the expert council with the National Prospects Foundation remarks.