Iran unaware about Pakistani minister’s visit to discuss IP gas project

Azerbaijan, Baku, Oct.2/ Trend F.Karimov/

National Iranian Gas Company's managing director has said he is unaware about the Pakistani Minister of Petroleum's visit dated October 10 to Iran to discuss the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project, the Mehr News Agency reported.

NIGC head Hamidreza Araqi said today that he knows nothing about Pakistan's call for extending the time schedule for gas delivery to the Pakistani side.

The Business Recorder has reported that Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources of Pakistan is to visit Iran on October 10 to discuss issues relating to the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project.

A senior Petroleum Ministry official told the Business Recorder that the Pakistani delegation will also deliberate with the Iranian authorities over the possibility of fully financing the project.

The Ministry of Petroleum is also set to take the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project to the Economic Co-Ordination Committee (EEC) of the cabinet upon the return of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from the US.

If Iran's relation with America improves, it would benefit the entire region and help Pakistan get international support for overseeing and financing the project, the official said.

The $1.5 billion IP project has been lingering since 1995, when Iran-Pakistan signed a memorandum of understating (MoU) to lay the pipeline. Under the accord signed in June 2010, Iran will provide about 750 million cubic feet per day (MMCFD) to Pakistan for 25 years. The deal can be extended by five years and the volume may go up to one Billion Cubic Feet per Day (BCFD).

"We are going to Iran to renegotiate financing of the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project and will also request from Iranian authorities they extend the deadline of the IP gas project from December 2014 to a mutually agreed time frame," Petroleum Ministry officials said.

"Our main concern is US sanctions against Iran, due to which Pakistan has so far failed to initiate the project. Once US sanctions against Iran are lifted or relaxed the laying of the pipeline will be carried out within a year as all other important tasks relating to the project have been completed," the official said.

An official of the National Engineering Services Pakistan (Nespak) said "Nespak has designed the pipeline corridor that would enable laying an extra pipeline for any other country showing an interest in becoming a partner. Within the next few months, Nespak along with its partner German company ILF would begin supervising the construction of the pipeline once it receives the go-ahead from the government," he added.

German-based consultant firm ILF, National Engineering Services Pakistan (NESPAK) and Iranian construction company Tadbir are set to complete the project which would cost $1.5 billion. The government of Iran has assured Pakistan of $500 million for the construction of pipeline.

Sources while quoting the penalty clause in the agreement of the IP project said that both Pakistan and Iran are bound to complete the project by the end of 2014 and if any of the two delay the project due to any reason, that country will have to pay a daily penalty of $ 1 million which is extendable to $3 million per day.

Sources said that work on the IP project has reached an advanced stage as Pakistan has already completed the Interim Front End Engineering Design (FEED) of the proposed IP project while progress on TAPI is at an initial stage.

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