Monday, 24 February 2014

Baku interested in Iraqi natural gas

Azerbaijan has offered Iraq access to the Southern Gas Corridor, in a bid to help the war-torn country to export its gas to Western markets. Azerbaijani foreign minister Elmar Mammadyarov visited Baghdad on 10 February for talks with high-ranking Iraqi officials on deepening bilateral ties. 

“It is a huge project […] and it is open if Iraq has an interest in delivering its own natural gas,” Mammadyarov said during a joint press conference with his Iraqi counterpart Hoshyar Zebari. He added that other countries had already signalled to Baku their interest in contributing gas to the Southern Gas Corridor, although no details were revealed. 

Iraq produces limited quantities of natural gas, most of which is used for domestic consumption. Considerable volumes of associated gas is still flared due to the lack of facilities to use it more productively. But the government is increasingly focused on stepping production for export. 

During his meeting with Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, Mammadyarov said that Azerbaijan was planning to open a full-fledged embassy in Baghdad in the near future. A permanent diplomatic mission in the Iraqi capital has already been authorised by the Azerbaijani parliament. “Our companies want to work and invest in Iraq, especially in its energy sector,” he added. 

Azerbaijan is not the only country interested in Iraq’s natural gas resources. Earlier this month, an Istanbul-based newspaper  quoted Turkish energy minister Taner Yildiz as saying that Ankara might prefer gas imports from Iraq to its current gas supplies from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. He said the price of Iraqi gas might prove much lower, because it would not have to cross foreign territory and would travel a shorter distance. 

Last June, Ashti Hawrami, minister of natural resources in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government, told the press that his government envisaged the start of natural gas supplies to Turkey as early as 2016. At the initial stage, around 10 billion cubic metres of gas is planned to be supplied across the border. Iraqi Kurdistan is set to begin oil deliveries to Turkey this September.

For more news and expert analysis about the Caspian region, please see Caspian Focus.

© 2014 Menas Associates

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