Energy-rich Iran’s intention to export its gas to Europe and Georgia’s desire to be a transit country for delivering ‘blue fuel’ to European consumers has become the hot topic of recent days.
Iranian Ambassador to Georgia Abbas Talebi-far has told Georgian media that Iran is ready to supply gas to Georgia both for domestic use and for transit to Europe. In early January, Alireza Kameli, Managing Director of the National Iranian Gas Export Company, announced that the Islamic Republic plans to export its natural gas to Georgia through a pipeline.
The Islamic Republic is expected to deliver its natural gas in the amount of 8.5-14 million cubic meters per day to Georgia through Armenia. However, according to Kameli, a contract will not be signed unless the project becomes economically justified.
Several experts claim that Georgia should catch this chance, while others say to carry such a responsibility – to pass Iranian gas via its territory is a difficult issue for Georgia given the fact that it needs an appropriate pipeline infrastructure and wise policy not to deteriorate energy ties with traditional energy supplier – Azerbaijan.
Robert M. Cutler, a senior research fellow at the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies of the Carleton University, believes that it is difficult to see how transit of Iranian gas to Europe via Georgia might happen.
“It is unlikely to happen via the South Caucasus Pipeline,” he wrote in e-mail to Azernews. “Its Azerbaijan-Georgia leg takes gas from Azerbaijan to Georgia for Georgian consumption, to Turkey (via Georgia) for Turkish consumption, and in the future also export (via TANAP) for European consumption. Volumes of the SCP and TANAP are fully subscribed, including with sales contracts, for the foreseeable future.”
The expert believes that the only other possibility would be a modification of the Azerbaijan-Georgia-Romania Interconnector (AGRI) project, which sought ways to take Azerbaijani gas across the Black Sea to Europe.
“However, the European Union has now eliminated this from the list of “Projects of Common Interest,” so it is unlikely to be constructed,” he noted.
Commenting on the Iranian side’s statements, Cutler said these comments are revealed as empty words, designed only to create a certain diplomatic atmosphere.
“If Iranian gas ever reaches Europe, it will be as Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), and if this ever happens, then it will not happen anytime soon, because Iran’s first export priority (i.e. after its own internal market) is the Asian market,” he stated.