DUBAI, (Reuters) – Supplies of gas from Turkmenistan to Iran have been halted due to a dispute over purchasing terms, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Wednesday, while a Turkmen government official denied flows had been stopped.
Iran, which supplies gas to Turkey, relies on gas from Turkmenistan to supply the cold north eastern region winter. Qasemi called on oil products distribution companies in the region to help ensure alternative fuel supplies over winter.
“Negotiations between the two countries are ongoing and it is foreseen that with a final agreement, natural gas imports from this neighbouring country will resume,” Qasemi was quoted by the semi-official Mehr news agency as saying.
A Turkmen government official told Reuters in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat that flows of gas to the Islamic Republic continued Wednesday.
“Natural gas supplies continued this morning according to schedule. The issue of price has never been a problem with Iran,” the source said.
“For some time there have been repair works on a pipeline stretch between Turkmenistan’s Artyk and Iran’s Lutfabad, but now gas flows even via this part of the pipeline route.”
Qasemi did not say when flows of gas from Turkmenistan had stopped, but said he hoped Turkmenistan would resume gas exports under the terms of existing contracts and new agreements, Iranian oil ministry news website Shana reported.
As Iran exports natural gas to Turkey and Armenia, a lengthy stoppage of Turkmen gas flows into the country could prompt Iran to stop supplies to its neighbours.
Iran buys almost a third of Turkmenistan’s exported gas which it relies heavily on for heating in winter and needs year round to meet industrial demand in parts of the country that are far from and poorly connected to its own fields clustered around the Gulf.
Iranian imports of Turkmen gas averaged just over 1 billion cubic feet a day from July 2011 to June 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, but imports are much higher in winter and lower in summer.
Iran has been importing natural gas from Turkmenistan since 1997. Western-imposed banking restrictions have made it difficult for Iran’s suppliers and buyers to trade with Tehran.