Iran expects to start import of Turkmen gas on Dec. 20
Iran expects to start the importation of gas from Turkmenistan via the Dovletabat-Sarakhs-Khangiran gas pipeline on December 20, the National Iranian Gas Export Company managing director said here on Monday.
SHANA news agency quoted Seyyed Reza Kasaeizadeh saying that extensive efforts are being made by the two countries aiming at commissioning the pipeline project on December 20 so that the gas flow begins before winter starts."
Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has invited his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to attend the inaugural ceremony.
Turkmenistan is a major gas producer in Central Asia, producing over 75 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year.
With an annual demand of 50 bcm, Russia is currently the leading export destination for Turkmenistan's gas.
In a bid to ease its dependence on Moscow's demand, Ashgabat is planning to increase its exports to Iran by 12 bcm a year, Reuters reported.
Should the new gas pipeline come online, Turkmenistan's gas export to Iran will reach 20 bcm a year.
Turkmenistan has been supplying gas to Iran since 1997, but exports have never hit the Korpeje-Kurt Kui pipeline's full capacity of 8 billion cubic meters (bcm) per year, a report from the Russian newspaper Vremya said, adding that exports have not exceeded 6.5 bcm.
Ties between the two energy powers were strained in winter 2008 after Turkmenistan halted gas sales to Iran, but during an official visit by the Turkmen president to Tehran in February 2009, the two sides inked an agreement which would allow Iran to develop the Yolatan gas field in Turkmenistan and import a portion of the extracted gas annually.
Iran sits atop the world's second-largest natural gas reserves after Russia, and has long sought to promote itself as a transit route for oil and gas from Central Asian states.
Turkmenistan, Central Asia's biggest gas producer, is seen as one of the key suppliers for the planned Nabucco pipeline from Turkey to Austria, designed to ease Europe's dependence on Russia for gas supplies.