IRAN'S GAS PROSPECTS
Iran's natural gas production has reached 660 million cubic meters per day (mcm/d) and the country is expected to increase this volume to 760 mcm/d by next spring.
Iran has so far completed South Pars field's phases 1 to 10. Meanwhile, phases 12, 15 to 18 opened early and were expected to become fully operational within a year.
Iran wants to increase South Pars gas production from its current levels of 350 mcm/d to 800 mcm/d by 2019. This requires completing 19 new phases of South Pars (Phases 11 to 29) with investing at least $43 billion. This means that Iran's natural gas production would stand at least at 1,100 mcm/d by 2019 totally.
Official figures say that during last Iranian fiscal year (ending on March 20) about 40 percent of the country's total produced gas, or, 91 bcm, was consumed at housing sector. The number increased by more than two percent in comparison with the previous year.
The Head of Iran's National Gas Company, Hamir Reza Araghi said April 19 that 800 thousand Iranian rural families would be supplied with natural gas in the current year. He noted that the number would reach to 2.4 million during the three next years. For now, 13 percent of Iranian families are not supplied with the natural gas.
If accomplished in the current year, the project would increase Iran's domestic consumption of natural gas by approximately 5 percent.
Power generation sector
Over the past year, Iran has delivered more than 50 bcm natural gas to power station section which is about 14 bcm more than the previous year. But to stop using liquid fuel in power plants, Iran must provide the section with more than 70 bcm/a of natural gas.
Meanwhile, thermal power plants in Iran increased their output last year by more than 2,000 megawatts (MW). Energy consumption in this sector also increased by more than 7 percent. If the growing consumption continues into the next year, the sector's need to natural gas would reach about 75 bcm in the current year.
Last year, Iran's industry sector used 44 bcm of the natural gas which is at least 2.5 bcm more than the previous year. The figure has increase three times since ten years ago. There are no yet precise reports on the prospect of Iranian industry section's natural gas consumption in the coming years, but as Iran's petrochemical companies are currently working with an alleged 70 percent of their nominal capacity due to the gas shortage, Iran plans to invest more $70 billion in petrochemical sector. Meanwhile, other industrial sections would probably need more natural gas in the coming years.
Injecting natural gas into old oil fields at their second half-life with 8 percent to a 13 percent drop in production annually is one of Iran's main challenges.
The country announced last year that it increased natural gas injection to oil fields by 1 bcm to 34 bcm last year, but this figure must double.
In total, about 205 bcm were consumed last year in Iran. As a result, Iran was able to export about 9.7 bcm of gas to Turkey.
Iran plans to export 5 to 7 mcm/d of natural gas to Iraq this year. This is not a considerable figure. Meanwhile, the sources of this limited amount is not South Pars field. If Iran's gas export to Iraq increases to 25 mcm/d – as stipulated in the agreement between two sides- Iran needs to complete its 6th cross-country pipeline which requires at least $2 billion, projected to link the South Pars field with Iraqi Kurdistan's borders with Iran. If the investment is accomplished, then the natural gas of one of the standard phase of South Pars will be exported to Iraq.
So, Iran's gas export in total would be limited during the current year.
If Iran increases its natural gas production by 100 mcm/d in the current year, the country would be able to cope with the growing domestic consumption and minimize the liquid fuel consumption in the power plants, but the problem of gas injection into oil fields would remain unresolved.
It's noteworthy that based on a 2013 report by Iranian MP and Head of Iran's Research Institute of Petroleum Industry (RIPI), Hamid Reza Katouzian, with the current growing natural gas consumption, Iran's gas consumption to reach 2,500 mcm/d of natural gas by 2025. To put it in another word, the natural gas consumption of the country would increase by four times. This sounds the alarms for Iranian officials to adopt appropriate measures. Should this come to fruition, Iran would not only have enough gas for export but would be forced to import natural gas for domestic consumption.
Thirty years ago, Iran's gas consumption stood at 10 bcm/d. But the gas share in energy basket of the country was less than 20 percent. The number is now over 65 percent.
Right now the efficiency of Iran's thermal power plants is about 37 percent. More than 11 bcm/a of natural gas are burned in torches and on general, Iran's domestic consumption is too high. Meanwhile, at least by 2020 Iran has no pipeline to export its gas to Europe. The country has signed several contracts and memorandum of understandings for exporting 50 mcm/d to Iraq, 30 mcm/d to Oman and 30 mcm/d to Pakistan but gas agreements are usually signed for over 25 years and Iran has no way but to look for a resolution to its fast-growing domestic consumption problem.
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