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Monday, March 16, 2009

Gazprom May Swap Caspian Gas With Iran for Persian Gulf Exports

iranMarch 16 (Bloomberg by Lucian Kim) - OAO Gazprom may provide northern Iran with natural gas in exchange for the right to export fuel from the country’s Persian Gulf ports, the official Fars news agency reported today, citing an intergovernmental memorandum. Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhossein Nozari signed the agreement on the sidelines of an OPEC meeting in Vienna yesterday, Iran’s state- run news agency said. Under the deal, Gazprom would swap gas from Turkmenistan or Azerbaijan in exchange for deliveries of crude, gas condensate or liquefied natural gas from southern Iran, Fars reported. Russia, the world’s largest energy exporter, is seeking to expand control over potential competitors in Central Asia and North Africa by taking stakes in international projects and coordinating production. Moscow hosted the Gas Exporting Countries Forum last December, fueling fears among consumer nations of the creation of a “gas OPEC” modeled after the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Gazprom wants to keep its near-monopoly over gas exports from Turkmenistan, the largest producer of the fuel in Central Asia. A pipeline connects the former Soviet republic with northern Iran, which faces chronic gas shortages because of a lack of a national pipeline network. A pipeline also connects Iran to Azerbaijan, which broke free of its dependence from Gazprom when it began exporting gas in 2007. Gazprom, which is vying to buy future Azeri gas supplies, may deliver gas to northern Iran via a Soviet-era pipeline, Fars reported, citing Stanislav Tsygankov, the head of Gazprom’s foreign relations department. Gazprom may also help build an LNG plant in southern Iran, Interfax reported earlier today, citing Shmatko. Gazprom begins deliveries of LNG -- gas compressed to a liquid for transportation by tanker -- later this year. The company has no experience of its own producing the fuel and is depending on technology used by Royal Dutch Shell Plc in Russia’s first LNG plant off the Pacific coast.

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