Iranian delegation to visit Azerbaijan for gas import negotiations

Iranian delegation to visit Azerbaijan for gas import negotiations

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec.20 /Trend, A.Yusifzade /

An Iranian delegation will visit Azerbaijan to negotiate gas imports from Azerbaijan to Iran to the amount of 1 billion cubic meters per year, Asghar Sohili Pur, deputy managing director of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGEC), was quoted by SHANA News Agency as saying.

According to Sohili Pur, gas prices, technical issues will be among the issues to be discussed by the two countries during the negotiations.

"At present, the negotiations between Iran and Azerbaijan are held in accordance with the Iranian trade policy for developing gas sector and importing 2-3 million cubic meters of natural gas from Azerbaijan per day", Soheli said.

Earlier, Iranian deputy oil minister Javad Oji said that the research is underway to increase gas imports from Azerbaijan to Iran from 2 to 5 million cubic meters per day, ISNA news agency reported.

He said that at present, the contract on gas transportation from Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan under the "swap" is available. The plans of increasing gas imports are at the stage of technical expertise.

"We need to make sure that Azerbaijan has completed the laying of the necessary pipelines and modernization of gas compressor stations for the necessary pressure," Oji said.

He said that using the existing pipeline, a short-term increase can be done in gas supplies. It is necessary to create more affordable infrastructure for long-term increase in supplies.

By mid-December, the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) will complete part of construction of a new gas compressor station in Astara, which is part of the transportation infrastructure that connects the gas system of Azerbaijan and Iran, a source on the oil and gas market said on Friday.

"The process of constructing the plant is still underway. All construction and commissioning operations will be completed by late December," he said.

SOCAR head Rovnag Abdullayev said earlier that the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) is implementing an investment program to expand the capacity of a gas compressor station in Astara. The program aims to fully meet the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic's (NAR) gas needs. Expanding the station in Astara will allow Azerbaijan to fully cover the NAR's gas needs without delivering any additional gas supplies through Iran.

Iran is interested in purchasing roughly 5 billion cubic meters of Azerbaijani gas per year.

Azerbaijan and Iran are connected with the Gazi-Magomed-Astara-Bind-Biand gas pipeline, 1,474.5-kilometers long. Its capacity was 10 billion cubic meters a year, but now it is lower. This route is a branch of the Gazakh-Astara-Iran pipeline commissioned in 1971. Three compressor stations - Gazi-Magomed, Aghdash and Gazakh were built.

Iran and Azerbaijan signed two memorandums of understanding on gas supplies and electricity swaps and transportation.

The MOUs were inked during President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Baku, SHANA news agency reported.

"This document envisages intensifying the cooperation between our countries," Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said after the signing ceremony.

"It concerns the projects on gas deliveries from Azerbaijan to Iran, electricity swaps and development of railway links within the north-south international transportation corridor," President Aliyev said in televised comments.

Azerbaijan supplies over 400 million cubic meters of gas to Iran per year, in exchange for 350 mcm that Iran delivers to Azerbaijan's geographically isolated region of Nakhchivan, Reuters reported.

Iran aims to complete constructing a gas compressor station by late 2010, which will enable it to handle gas deliveries from Azerbaijan of up to 1.5 billion cubic meters per year.

Azerbaijani supplies of gasoline to Iran were halted earlier this year after Iran said that it could cover its own needs.

The Iranian National Oil Company (NIOC) holds a stake in Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz gas project in the Caspian Sea, co-led by BP.

The memorandum also called for developing railway to encourage trade between the two countries.

President Ahmadinejad said that Iran is ready to sell its gas to Europe, raising the prospect of supplying gas via the European Union backed Nabucco pipeline project in the future.

President Ahmadinejad added that Europe needs Iranian gas and we are ready to sell gas to them at an acceptable price if they want.

Iran is facing with tighter sanctions imposed in June by the United Nations, United States and European Union over its nuclear program. The West thinks that it is aimed at developing nuclear weapons.

The 7.9 billion euro Nabucco pipeline is part of the EU's effort to diversify its natural gas supplies by bringing up to 31 billion cubic meters of gas annually from the Caspian region to an Austrian hub via Turkey and the Balkans.

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