Vice Pres: Iran best path for transferring Caspian Sea oil and gas

Vice President and Head of Environment Protection Organization Mohammad-Javad Mohammadi-Zadeh announced here Wednesday that Iran is logically best path for transferring Caspian Sea oil and gas.


Mohammadi-Zadeh made the comment in an interview with IRNA in Moscow, emphasizing that the Caspian Sea oil and gas pipelines must be laid on land and beyond doubt their most logical path passes thru Iran.'


He added, 'This path is more economical both in terms of its length and from the viewpoint of the needed investment amount and even in offering the maintenance and keeping services after the pipelines' construction, which would be a lot easier on land, than under the sea.'


The head of the Islamic Republic of Iran's Environment Protection Organization announced that Tehran is opposed to the construction of oil and gas pipelines under the Caspian Sea bed, adding, 'This sea has a high degree of corrosion characteristic and a pipeline under its bed might in the long run be damaged and inflict irremunerable environmental damages to this unique and largest lake of the world.'


> Map of Iran



He added, 'That is while construction of such pipelines on land has a lot less danger of being damaged and in addition construction of them on land has a very considerably lower investment cost.'


Mohammadi-Zadeh reiterated, 'The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced readiness for cooperation with the littoral countries of the Caspian Sea for environment protection for transfer of experience in this regard.'


He added, 'In my meetings with Russian officials they too, announced readiness for doing so and we hope relying of more intensive consultations the Caspian Sea issues would be solved based on group decisions, rather than adopting unilateral decisions in this respect.'


The Iranian vice president pointing out that the Caspian Sea's other name is the Sea of Peace and Friendship, adding, 'The littoral countries of the Caspian Sea must take advantage of the existing possibilities of this shared water body at the service of improving the level of cooperation among them, and Iran is a pioneer in this respect.'


Vice President and Head of Environment Protection Organization Mohammad-Javad Mohammadi-Zadeh participated at the 4th Meeting to Survey the Tehran-Moscow Convention on behalf of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


At this meeting environment ministers of Russia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, and Azerbaijan are present in addition to Iran and they have signed a protocol to fight against the pollution due to the resources and activities that can lead to shrinking the size and eventual drying of the Caspian Sea.


The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline is a proposed submarine pipeline between Turkmenbashy in Turkmenistan, and Baku in Azerbaijan. According to some proposals it will also include a connection between the Tengiz Field in Kazakhstan, and Turkmenbashy. The Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project if built would transport natural gas from Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to central Europe, circumventing both Russia and Iran.


A project to import natural gas from Turkmenistan through a submarine pipeline was suggested in 1996 by the United States. In February 1999, the Turkmen government entered into an agreement with General Electric and Bechtel Group for a feasibility study on the proposed pipeline. In 1999, while attending the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan signed a number of agreements concerned with construction of pipelines. However, because of Russian and Iranian opposition to the project, an unresolved legal dispute over Caspian Sea territorial boundaries and a gas discovery on Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz Field, the submarine pipeline project was shelved in the summer of 2000 and only the South Caucasus Pipeline project continued.


In January 2006, as a result of the Russia-Ukraine gas dispute, interest in the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline project was rekindled. On January 11th, 2006, Azerbaijan's prime-minister at the time, Artur Rasizade proposed to his Kazakh counterpart Danial Ahmetov that Kazakhstan gas would be exported through the South Caucasus Pipeline to Turkey and from there to the European markets. In March 2006, Turkmen president at the time Saparmurat Niyazov signaled his intention to rejoin possible negotiations on the pipeline. In May 2006, during his visit of Kazakhstan, the European Commissioner for Energy Andris Piebalgs professed EU support for the construction of the Trans-Caspian pipeline. Azerbaijan's Industry and Energy Minister Natig Aliyev, while addressing an international energy conference in Baku, outlined the advantages of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline for diversifying the European energy supplies and restraining their prices. On the other hand, Russia's Industry and Energy Minister Viktor Khristenko commented that the existing technical, legal, environmental and other risks relating to the trans-Caspian project are so great that it would be impossible to find an investor unless there is political backing for the project. On May 12th, 2007, an agreement was signed between Russia, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan providing for Central Asian gas to be exported to Europe through the reconstructed and expanded western branch of the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline system. This was seen as a setback for the realization of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline, although Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov said that the Trans-Caspian pipeline project was not canceled.


On 4 September 2008, Iran's deputy foreign minister Mahdi Safari confirmed that Tehran opposes the construction of any undersea pipelines in the Caspian because of environmental concerns. This jeopardizes the Trans-Caspian Gas pipeline project, according to regional expert Paul Goble. However on December 22nd, 2008 Austria's OMV and Germany's RWE, both partners in Nabucco Gas Pipeline International GmbH, announced they were setting up a joint venture named the Caspian Energy Company, to carry out exploration for a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea that would feed into the Nabucco Pipeline. Based on exploration outcomes the company plans to build and operate a gas transport system across the Caspian Sea.


On September 12th, 2011, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed to give a negotiating mandate to the European Commission for negotiations with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan on the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline. On September 3rd, 2012, after the meeting between the European Commissioner for Energy Gunther Oettinger, Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yıldız, and Azerbaijani and Turkmenistani officials in Ashgabat, Yıldız stated that Turkey will buy gas from Turkmenistan through the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline.