Some 200 mcm daily gas shortage awaits Iran's winter

By Dalga Khatinoglu

Iran will face daily 200 million cubic meters of gas shortage due to a harsh winter season, the deputy of oil minister says, but how can it be saved?

Iran -the biggest gas holder in the world- extracted about 220 mcm of gross gas during last year, of which 160.5 bcm was refined, according BP's annual report, published on mid-January.

The country's gas consumption was 156 bcm, or 427.4 mcmpd.

Although, Iran's gas output had increased by 214 percent during the decade to 2012 and reached 160.5 bcm, the consumption increased to 156 bcm.

During Ex-President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's time in office, due to withdrawal of western companies from Iran's oil and gas sector, especially from South Pars - the gigantic gas field with 33 tcm of proved reserves shared between Iran and Qatar- as well as the lack of domestic technology and not enough finance, new phases of South Pars have not come on stream since 2008.

South Pars shares 27 percent of Iran's total gas reserves and 35 percent of total gas output.

The Iranian deputy oil minister Hamidreza Araqi said on Dec.13 that the country's total gas refining capacity with gas imports volume (from Turkmenistan) equal 500 mcmpd together, while it is expected the consumption level would reach about 700 mcmpd in the winter.

According to him, the total current amount of gas consumption in the country is 415 mcmpd.

Economization, the only solution

During recent weeks, Iran has said that gas output increased by 12 mcm per day in South Pars, but this is too little to compensate for such a huge consumption shortage.

Currently, Iran's power plants need 140-150 million cubic meters of gas per day, but with the gas shortage the country is facing, the power plants have turned to consuming gas oil or kerosene.

Last year, Iran lost $18 billion due to burning fuels in power plants, Bijan Namdar Zanganeh Oil Minister said in October.

According to his statement, blue fuel shares about 70 percent of the country's total energy consumption.

ISNA quoted the managing director of National Iranian Oil Products Distribution Company (NIOPDC), Mostafa Kashkouli as saying on Dec. 13 that the average daily fuel consumption of the power plants was around 103 million liters during last nine months, while currently this figure reached to 135 million liters.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Iran extracted above 220 mcm of gross gas in 2011, but only 67 percent of the gross natural gas was delivered to market as dry gas, while 16 percent of that re-injected to enhance oil recovery, and 17 percent was flared and wasted.

Since 2001, Iran has started a plan called Amak project to prevent flaring associated gas in some oil fields, without significant progress.

The country's total refining capacity plus gas import volume is maximum 500 mcm per day, while Iran has a contract with Turkey to export about 10 bcm of gas every year.

Iran could export only 7.5 bcm of gas to its western neighbor in 2012, according to BP's report.

On the other hand, Iran's only gas storage facility, Qom Serajeh underground reservoir has only 3.3 bcm of storage capacity. This equals one week of Iranian gas consumption.

It seems Iranians have no choice in this winter but to economize on gas to prevent the cutoff of the blue fuel supply.

Dalga Khatinoglu is Trend Persian Service head

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