NEW DELHI (AFP) – Fuel-hungry India will receive gas from energy-rich Iran via a multi-billion-dollar pipeline through Pakistan in four years, an Iranian oil official said in New Delhi.
“The gas supply will start in 2011,” said Ghanimi Fard, the Iranian oil ministry’s special representative, according to a report Saturday in India’s Business Standard newspaper.
“Almost 18 percent of the physical work on the pipeline in Iran has been completed since last year,” Fard added.
Fard made the comments to reporters after talks that wrapped up on Friday with Indian oil minister Murli Deora and Pakistan petroleum secretary Ahmad Waqar to finalise details for the 7.4-billion-dollar pipeline.
Discussions on the proposal started in 1994, but have been stalled because of technical and commercial issues.
There have also been strong objections to the pipeline from the United States, which has locked horns with Tehran over its atomic programme.
“We are confident of resolving all issues by next month,” said Indian petroleum secretary M.S. Srinivasan.
India and Pakistan agreed in February to pay Iran 4.93 dollars per million British thermal units for its gas.
But issues such as how often pricing should be revised — Iran now wants this to happen every three years instead of the previously agreed seven — remain to be decided.
“If Iran’s proposed gas price after three years was not acceptable to us, we will not be able to do much,” an Indian official, who was not identified, told the Press Trust of India (PTI) news agency.
“We will not even be able to walk out of the project as over four billion dollars would have already been invested.”
India’s Deora said earlier the final framework would be announced by the three countries’ oil ministers in late July but Iran’s request for more frequent pricing revision may push back the final deal by two months, PTI said.
The 2,600-kilometre (1,600-mile) pipeline from Iran’s giant South Pars gas field will initially carry around 60 million standard cubic metres per day of gas.
India, which imports more than 70 percent of its energy needs, has been racing to secure new supplies of oil and gas from abroad besides ramping up production from domestic sources to sustain its scorching economic growth.
Under the agreement, each country is responsible for laying its share of the pipeline. Separately, India will pay Pakistan for the cost of shipping its share of the gas to the Indian border.
In bilateral talks on Wednesday, an agreement was reached on some of the fees India must pay Pakistan for the movement of gas through the latter’s 1,050-kilometre stretch of the pipeline.
India will pay Pakistan the transport tariff it requested of 0.70-0.75 dollars per million British thermal units but the two countries are yet to agree on transit fees that may go towards the security of pipeline.
Pakistan promised to ensure the safety of its share of the pipeline, with India concerned it could become a target for Islamic militants.
“We make a commitment that we will secure the pipeline,” said Waqar after the talks.