A former Iranian oil official believes Tehran will not be able to attain its ambitious gas production growth target of 15 per cent although it has the world’s second largest natural gas resources.
Manouchehr Takin, who served in the Iranian oil industry and spent nine years at Opec Secretariat, said the plans could be hampered due to technical and financial obstacles.
Takin, a senior upstream oil analyst at the London-based Centre for Global Energy Studies, put Iran’s current gas output at around 100 billion cubic metres per year, but said production remains low compared to the country’s mammoth gas reserves of around 28 trillion cubic metres.
In a recent study about Iran’s gas sector, he said the giant South Pars field, which crosses the Qatar border, constitutes 49 per cent of Iran’s gas reserves, adding that it had largely contributed to Iran’s gas output in the past six years.
But he added that development projects at the field, mainly LNG plans, have already faced financial delays due to financial and contractual issues. His figures show $2 billion (Dh7.3bn) to $3bn would be required for each of the remaining development phases at the field.
“Production targets appear too aggressive. The targets for the future rate of production set by the National Iranian Oil Company look too ambitious (15 per cent growth rate until 2014). A five per cent growth rate is more likely in the long run. Production growth will probably slow due to several factors,” he said.
“Although these high growth rates are being put forward by planners, one should ask whether these objectives are too ambitious and unattainable. Could they really be implemented?
“In order to bring one billion cubic feet gas per day on stream, particularly when it comes from offshore, and to have a smooth streamlined system for production, distribution to domestic networks and exports, is a major industrial undertaking that cannot be taken lightly and that is really what the issue is.
“In my opinion, Iran’s current targets are too aggressive. The five per cent target seems to be a more reasonable rate of growth.”
Takin also cited financial constraints because of the massive cost of those projects and the difficulty to secure funds.
“We are talking about huge quantities of investment only to increase Iranian gas production. And the provision of all this huge capital, I think, is another constraint that we have to look at and evaluate closely,” he said.
“What I want to say is that all the projects are too ambitious, and may not materialise. But it will not finally come to a blow out where the whole thing collapses.
I think when politicians have influence over the management of the industry they make them come up with these huge targets.
But in practice, I know from my own experience, the technical experts involved are trying to convince the top politicians to moderate future expectations. And that has been going on step-by-step and assertively in the past 10-20 years since the 1988 ceasefire with Iraq.”
Takin’s figures showed about three-quarters of Iran’s gas is sour that contains high levels of sulphur.
“Only about 15 per cent is sweet. And for the 11 per cent, I couldn’t find gas quality information. They are more recent discoveries and analyses are not published.”
Iran’s gas output targets are ‘too ambitious’