Libmonster ID: SE-331
Author(s) of the publication: S. A. STARTSEV


Candidate of Economic Sciences

(Nizhny Tagil)

In October 2008, a landmark event for the development of global energy took place in Tehran - Russia, Iran and Qatar signed an agreement on cooperation in the gas sector. After this meeting, a new phrase appeared in Tehran - "Big Gas Troika" (Big Gas Troika) and the neologism "gas OPEC"was fixed in everyday life. The rapidly globalizing gas market requires coordination among major energy exporters.

The answer to the sacramental question "Who is Who" in the club of owners of the richest storerooms of "blue gold" is quite obvious at the moment. Moscow, Tehran and Doha have more than half of the world's natural gas at their combined disposal.


In the first place is Russia, which in the gas alliance in the event of its transformation into a "gas OPEC", of course, claims the same role as Saudi Arabia in the oil cartel (see Table 1). According to the head of Gazprom, A. Miller, if you associate not with the Russian troika, but with the whole of the world. in any case, with the team, "the role of Russia in this "troika" is fundamental, since Russia in terms of reserves and exports... - number one in the world " 1.

In the global scenario of domestic gas consumption, the positions of the "triumvirate" participants are just as significant as in the volume of energy carrier promotion to foreign markets (see Table 2).

The 2008 trilateral Agreement provided the framework for the restructuring of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF)* established back in 2001, from a kind of informal "club of interests" to a permanent international governmental organization to ensure reliable and stable supplies of this energy carrier around the world. St. Petersburg, Tehran and Doha have all claimed the role of the capital of the "gas OPEC". As a result of a kind of compromise exchange, the headquarters ended up in Qatar in 2008, and the following year the Russian representative Leonid Bokhanovsky was elected to the post of Secretary General of the organization.2

Consumer market established in the gas business from the beginning of the-

Table 1

Big Three gas resources and production

Proved reserves (as of 1.01.2010)

Production (2009)

A country

Volume, trillion cubic meters

Share of global sales, %

Inventory multiplicity, in years*

Place in the world

Volume, billion cubic meters

Share of global sales, %

Place in the world

























* The ratio of current proven reserves to annual gas production.

Source: BP Statistical of World Energy. June 2010 - review

* The GECF currently consists of 11 countries: Algeria, Russia, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, and Trinidad and Tobago. Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Norway are observers.

page 36

Table 2

Big Three gas consumption and foreign trade (2009)


Foreign trade, billion cubic meters

A country

Volume, billion cubic meters

Share of the world market, in %

Place in the world

Export, billion cubic meters

Import, billion cubic meters






























* LNG - liquefied natural gas.

Source: BP Statistical of World Energy. June 2010 - review

The onset of the global financial and economic crisis and the growth of shale gas production in the United States have alarmed suppliers. At the GECF ministerial meeting in Oran, Algeria (April 2010), all participants signed a resolution on the need to achieve oil-linked prices for "blue fuel" and to fight competition between long-term and spot (according to stock quotes) gas supplies on the market. And the largest supplier of pipeline gas, Russia, signed a separate statement with the leader of liquefied gas supplies, Qatar, on cooperation in the field of stabilizing prices and demand for energy.3

It should not be hidden that there are certain differences between Russia, Iran and Qatar in defining the organization's strategic goals. Tehran insists that the gas forum in the future quotas gas production and thus contribute to the growth of fuel prices. Moscow sees the future of the organization as a joint project organization. Doha is interested in coordinating efforts to develop regional markets for liquefied natural gas (LNG).

On the eve of the gas summit in Oran, three leading gas exporters - Russia, Qatar and Algeria - discussed a number of topical issues. It is interesting that Iran was not among them, because so far the country, with a very modest volume of foreign trade operations, de facto acts as a net importer of gas (see Table 2). In particular, it was noted that the price of natural gas is 6 times less than the cost of an equivalent amount of oil, if compared by calorific value In addition, it can also be used as a fuel, which is more technologically preferable and less harmful to the environment as a fuel. In Oran, the Algerians proposed cutting gas production in order to raise prices, which would give the Forum a certain outline of the gas equivalent of OPEC. Despite the external temptation of such a move, Russia and Qatar opposed it.4

The coordinated goal of the GECF is to link gas prices to oil equivalents. We are talking about the fact that gas prices on the stock exchange are determined by analogy with the world quotations for petroleum products (fuel oil and gas oil*). This consolidated decision was unexpected, as it was assumed that Qatar would not support any radical initiatives of its rival partners.

The full legal status of the GECF was granted in December 2008, when the energy Ministers of the participating countries adopted the charter and signed an intergovernmental agreement. Currently, the Forum is completing the stage of organizing and finding its place in the structure of intergovernmental organizations. It is obvious that at this stage, bilateral agreements are more effective than the actions of the organization, which includes 11 countries with a wide range of interests in the gas sector.


Iran made its debut on the global gas scene almost half a century ago in the complex conditions of a classic neocolonial consumer market with low prices and the dominance of foreign monopolies.

Real help in organizing large-scale gas exports came from the Soviet Union. In 1966. Iran signed an agreement with the USSR on economic cooperation, according to which, in exchange for Soviet loans, the supply of complete equipment, technical assistance in laying the Trans-Iranian main gas pipeline (TIMG-1) and in building the first heavy industry enterprises, Tehran was to supply 6 billion cubic meters of gas to the USSR annually from 1970 (10 billion from 1973 d.) 5.

This allowed Iran to start addressing the issue of rational utilization of associated petroleum gas, a previously irretrievably lost valuable mineral resource, and made it possible to start gasification of large cities in the central part of the country. The USSR became the first country in the world to agree to buy associated gas, although it did not feel an urgent need for it. Total for the co validity period-

* Gas oil - a special oil product, light diesel fuel (the oil fraction that boils off at t ° 250-350).

page 37

Under the agreement with Iran, the USSR received 73 billion cubic meters of gas6.

Iran's revenues from the sale of "blue gold" were transferred to a special "industrialization account".

However, since February 1980, after the victory of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, deliveries were stopped at the initiative of Tehran. The reason was the price issue and the accusations of the Soviet Union that it allegedly bought Iranian gas at low prices and thereby harmed the country's economy. In reality, gas prices were linked to the prices of low-sulfur fuel oil (boiler fuel), which increased almost 13 times over the period of the 70s, while prices for Soviet equipment, contracts for the supply of which were signed before the gas arrived, did not change 7.

The experience gained in the course of Soviet-Iranian cooperation in the field of gas included another example of the possible development of mutually beneficial economic ties, which was not put into practice. In 1975, general agreements were signed on the transit of Iranian gas through the territory of the USSR to the countries of Western Europe with the participation of six states (Iran, the USSR, Czechoslovakia, Germany, France, Austria).

This complex project, which at that time had no equal in the history of economic cooperation between states with different social systems, was designed until 2003.8 Practically all the gas that was supposed to flow to Astara (Iran) in the amount of 17 billion US dollars. It was supposed to be consumed in the republics of Transcaucasia and southern Ukraine, and to sell gas from the fields of eastern Ukraine, Orenburg region, northern regions of the Tyumen region and Central Asia to Germany, France and Austria 9.

According to the project worth $2.5 - 3.3 billion. - a very impressive sum for those times - it was planned to complete the construction of the second parallel line of the Trans-Iranian main gas pipeline (TIMG-2)by the end of 1980 .10 But the project died in its infancy: work began in 1978, but the following year it was suspended due to the Islamic revolution and did not resume due to the outbreak of war with Iraq (large-scale destruction in Khuzestan, which produced more than 90% of the country's gas, the outflow of foreign specialists, interruptions in the supply of equipment for the oil and gas industry, etc.).

Tehran's actions in the gas sector led to the fact that in the post-Soviet history, gas cooperation with Moscow was reduced to a minimum. Only in October 1997, Gazprom, together with the French company Total and Malaysia's Petronas, signed an agreement with Tehran on the development of the South Pars field with a commitment to invest $2 billion in this project.11 The agreement caused outrage in Washington, which blocked a loan to Gazprom from the Export-Import Bank of the United States.

In modern conditions, a change in priorities in Iran's gas strategy has been announced. Tehran has abandoned ambitious and long-term LNG production projects designed for foreign investment and technology in favor of the domestic market, where demand is growing rapidly. The actions of international sanctions and the infrastructure inability to simultaneously develop export projects and gasify the country are also affected. Nevertheless, Tehran has ambitious plans to become the second largest gas producer in the world12.


Tehran's original plan - to attract influential foreign partners to large-scale oil and gas projects with an annual investment injection of $25 billion, 13 which would help it resist the pressure exerted on it by Western countries-turned out to be illusory. Although to facilitate the search for potential allies, Iran offered them very favorable conditions in joint projects, which, in general, is not difficult: the cost of Iranian gas is the lowest in the world.

Iran has announced that it is ready to suspend exports until global gas prices rise to a "reasonable level", as it is preferable to pump gas into underground storage or process it, rather than export it in the face of falling prices.

Despite all the above-mentioned metamorphoses, Iran's blue dream of turning from a de jure "blue fuel" exporting country, as a member of the GECF, into a full-fledged supplier of energy to foreign markets remains on the agenda. From the economic and geographical point of view, two gas transmission corridors are most attractive here. Primus inter pares (first among equals) - western-via Turkey and possibly Russia. However, in this case, there are serious political and economic risks: the highly competitive European gas market is oversaturated with this energy carrier, and Tehran has become a kind of pariah as a result of the implementation of the notorious nuclear program. Nevertheless, Iran positions itself both as a source of gas and as a possible transit route for the Turkmen energy carrier via the Nabucco gas pipeline. When Ankara lobbies for a project involving Iran, this meets strong objections from Washington and the EU.

Understanding the complexity of connecting Persian gas to Nabucco, other options are being sought for re-export or transit type with the participation of Turkey. According to the memorandum of understanding signed in October 2009, it was assumed that by 2015 the partners would produce 35 billion cubic meters of gas per year from the giant South Pars field, of which half

page 38

will be exported by Turkey 14. In response to Western pressure, Ankara categorically objected: "The decision on gas transportation from Iran is made by Iran, while Turkey decides on gas transit through its territory. And we will allow the transit of any gas, " said Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Taner Yildiz 15.

However, the "bright future" of this project is now very problematic. In the summer of 2010, Turkey was forced to pay Iran $600 million [16] as a penalty for violating a clause of the already existing agreement, which in international practice is called take or pay (take or pay), when the importing country chooses a gas volume less than the value specified in the contract.

At the same time, the Iranian gas pipeline system, which is key to the country's transport and energy infrastructure, including the section of the export pipeline to Turkey on both sides of the border, was the target of a series of explosions. The range of reasons ranged from poor-quality exploitation to the actions of various extremist organizations. By the way, after one of these accidents, Gazprom insured Iran by increasing the volume of export supplies via the Blue Stream pipeline to Turkey at the request of Ankara from 14 to 22 million cubic meters. m per day 17.

In this context, as the Chinese comrades would say, the wind from the East prevails over the wind from the West. Until recently, one of Tehran's priorities was the ambitious Mir project-the IPI (Iran-Pakistan-India) gas pipeline, which provided for the construction of a highway with a design capacity of 55 billion cubic meters. m to the South Asian sub-region 18. In addition to India, China also showed interest in the project. The possibility of building a branch of the pipeline to China was discussed - the route was supposed to run parallel to the high-altitude Karakoram highway in the Himalayas. However, the cost of the project stopped even Beijing, which usually does not skimp on politically significant pipelines.

In September 2008 India suspended its participation in the negotiations, citing problems with the quality, price and cost of gas transit. The real reason, apparently, was the harsh political pressure from Washington, which is in conflict with Tehran, in an effort to organize a "gas blockade" and exclude Iran from entering the new market (while the country sells gas only to Turkey).

However, in May 2009, the Presidents of Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement providing for the start of construction in September of the same year. It was interpreted as one of the cornerstones of the "gas OPEC", the core of which is the "big three", as it bred potential competitors in the European market. Moscow positively assessed the agreement, and a Gazprom official said that "... we are interested in this project, it allows us to capitalize on our knowledge and skills and help our Iranian partners open up new markets for them. " 19 However, the signing of the TAPI (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan) gas pipeline agreement in December 2009-India) has clearly overshadowed the Iranian project.

Describing the southern direction of the potential for Iranian gas exports, it is worth mentioning a rather exotic project, according to which India and Oman were going to build a deep-water gas pipeline to supply India with natural gas from Turkmenistan, Iran and Qatar through Oman, bypassing the unstable areas of Afghanistan and Pakistan.20

In modern conditions, Russia and Iran hold close positions in the oil and gas market and act on the international stage as two powerful energy powers. It is also important that they simultaneously appear in the role of both exporters (Turkey) and importers of gas, and from the same regions of Central Asia (Turkmenistan) and Transcaucasia (Azerbaijan).

In July 2010, Moscow and Tehran, represented by Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko and Iranian Oil Minister Seyed Masoud Mirkazemi, signed a so-called roadmap for cooperation in the oil and gas sector, which, according to the Russian participant, is "practically unlimited"21. The 20-year cooperation program will focus on three main areas: mining, refining and innovative technologies. Iran expressed confidence that the two countries can use their national currencies to implement joint projects and will create a joint bank to finance energy projects. Russia believes that international sanctions will not hinder cooperation between the two countries in the fuel and energy complex22.


The "gas chapter" in the book of economic cooperation between Russia and Qatar was recently opened in connection with the creation of the GECF. Interaction is carried out at all levels - from intergovernmental to inter-firm, and often in an integral version. Thus,during the visit of Russian President Vladimir Putin to the Emirate in 2007, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Lukoil and Qatar Petroleum in the field of joint development, development and production of hydrocarbons on its territory. 23 In 2008, Gazprom reached an agreement with Qatar LNG Co. (Qatargas) and National Iranian Oil Co(NIOC) on the formation of a joint venture in Qatar based on the leading companies of the gas triumvirate24.

The year of trials for Moscow and Doha was 2009, when there was a conflict of gas interests between the two countries, as usual, in many countries of the world.

page 39

largely because of Washington's actions. At this time, the United States made a major industrial and technological breakthrough-the transfer of gas production from shale rocks from an experimental to a commercial basis. Qatar's new LNG production facilities, which were created specifically for the US gas market, were actually unclaimed. The Americans, having increased national production, unceremoniously terminated all agreements, after which Qatari gas went in abundance to the European short-term sales market (spot), which, of course, led to its overstocking and dumping pricing.

This infringed on the interests of Russian and North African gas producers, which traditionally worked in this regional energy space. In 2009, Russian Gazprom's production and exports fell steadily, while Qatar increased production. As an illustration, while Russian shipments declined by 14% in the first half of the year, Qatari shipments increased by 363%, and Qatar's share of European imports increased from 2% to 10% .25

The Western European market has become the sphere of struggle between Qatar and Russia, and the emirate has a bonus as an ace in the gas deck - the delivery of LNG from this country turned out to be cheaper than the transportation of gas under long-term pipeline contracts from Russia. So before talking about creating a "gas OPEC", participants will have to agree on the delimitation of the market space and, possibly, a single price formula, i.e., to a certain extent, act in the image and likeness of OPEC.

In the current situation, the GECF participants quickly took a consolidated position in April 2010, trying to stabilize the situation on the global gas market, as well as trying to prevent price competition between long-and short-term gas supplies.

2010 was a period of particularly intensive Russian-Qatari interstate contacts. In March, the Qatari Prime Minister paid a visit to Moscow, where he visited the Gazprom management Committee, the White House and the Kremlin. Vladimir Putin and Hamad Bin Jassim Al-Thani agreed to cooperate in the fields of electricity, investment, trade and, of course, gas. Cooperation in the gas industry, primarily in the GECF format, was also discussed with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who called for more active use of the GECF as a platform for interaction: "We cannot achieve our goals through OPEC, in which we do not participate, we need to promote the consortium of gas exporters. This is an instrument that we have designed and spearheaded ourselves, so let's give it a boost. " 26

In April, a representative delegation of heads of Russian fuel and energy companies headed by Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin and Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko visited Qatar to get acquainted with the possibilities of bilateral cooperation on the spot. It is envisaged that Russia and Qatar will establish a commission for cooperation in the gas sector at the governmental level.27

Both in Moscow and Doha, the negotiators announced the existence of specific cooperation projects, including mutual investments, or the exchange of LNG production assets.

At the same time, Qatar offered Gazprom to take part in the LNG project after 2014, when the moratorium on expanding production at the world's largest Northern field in the Persian Gulf could be lifted. The Russian mega-holding received this proposal with interest28.

As a counter move, the "polar throw" of the emirate is not excluded. The Russian company NOVATEK plans to build an LNG plant with a design capacity of 15 million tons per year under the project to develop the Yuzhno-Tambeyskoye gas field in Yamal. Qatar Petroleum is among the potential foreign partners. According to the Russian side, it has the greatest experience in building large - capacity liquefied gas production facilities, as well as the "financial power" of Qatar.29

However, we should not discount the fact that Qatar's own LNG projects are much cheaper and more profitable, and most importantly, they are focused on the same markets.

"Big Gas" was somewhat unexpectedly associated with ... "big football". FIFA's decision to host the 2018 and 2022 World Cups in Russia and Qatar, respectively, has acquired an" energy gleam". The Russian President and the Emir of Qatar have agreed that they will join forces in preparing for these events. Qatar, which has never been considered a football country, has huge financial resources to organize the competition. Representatives of the Qatar bid committee once shocked the football world when they named the amount they had pledged to create infrastructure for the upcoming World Cup - $50 billion 30 (for comparison, Russia has "only" $10 billion). At the same time, Doha stressed that, since they do not have a special need for large stadiums in the country, they will then disassemble some of the stadiums built for the championship and "give them to poor countries". Thus, we can transform the well-known TV advertising slogan: "Gazprom is a national treasure of Russia, Qatargas is a national treasure of Qatar."


Regarding the third facet of the "Big Gas Troika" - cooperation between Iran and Qatar - we can limit ourselves to a brief remark. At present, it is limited to cooperation within the framework of the GECF and is not particularly warm. As noted

page 40

infamous WikilLeaks, referring to the words of US Senator John Kerry, "...Based on the 30-year experience of interaction with Iran, the Emir came to the conclusion that it is impossible to believe not a single word of it." "They lie to us, and we lie to them," is how the Qatari Prime Minister described his country's relations with Iran.31

Nevertheless, business is business, and production and technical cooperation is also possible in the future: if there are difficulties with the operational volumes of gas reserves in the Qatari North field, it is possible to connect the resources of Iran's South Pars, since they form a single mining and geological structure and are geographically close. Iran abandoned LNG projects that were brilliantly tested by Qatar - in December 2010, the emirate reached a record production level of 77 million tons per year32. And the OPEC presidency passed to Iran: Tehran leads an oil cartel for the first time in 36 years.

Summing up the results of almost three years of activity of the "Big Gas Troika", it can be stated that not all the expectations associated with it have come true.

On the one hand, the forecasts of the gas apocalypse as a consequence of the duel between the "Big Three" and the "Big Seven"did not materialize. In April 2007, the House of Representatives of the US Congress addressed Secretary of State K. Rayet with a letter about the possibility of creating a cartel, in which" gas OPEC "was apriori called"a global organization for extortion and racketeering" 33.

There is a certain logic in the opinion that the meeting in Tehran is "just an extra irritant for the developed countries - the United States, Japan and the EU, which are the main consumers of oil and gas and not without reason perceive any rapprochement of suppliers as monopolistic aspirations and resource blackmail" 34. The main background of the meeting in Tehran in 2008 was an attempt to tactical counteraction to the collapse of quotations on the world oil market, which inevitably determined the long process of reducing gas prices.

On the other hand , as they say, it was smooth on paper, but they forgot about the ravines. The routine activities of the informal organization were not quite effective. Its participants once agreed to hold regular meetings-three or four times a year - to discuss the most important issues of mutual interest in the development of the gas market. In reality, this did not happen. The same can be said about the intention to create a High Technical Committee of specialists from the three countries to discuss ways to implement specific joint projects covering the entire chain-from geological exploration and production to transportation and joint marketing of gas.35

An initiative to create an international club of experts and journalists specializing in the energy sector, with the proposed name "Energy Pole", was supported but not implemented in Tehran. The goal was to encourage the most reputable specialists to obtain first-hand information on the most pressing issues in the oil and gas industry.36

Nevertheless, the main mission of the "Big Gas Troika" can be considered fulfilled - the mechanism of the Forum of Gas Exporting Countries has started working, although not in the format of the gas analogue of OPEC with its strict coordination of actions.

* * *

In November 2011, Doha will host an unprecedented event for the global energy industry - the first gas summit, an event approved by the UN. It will be attended not only by the heads of State and Government of the GECF member countries, but also by the heads of other gas exporting countries, as well as leaders of gas-consuming countries and heads of leading energy multinational corporations.

1 - 26/




Startsev S. A. 5 Gas industry in the Persian Gulf and North Africa countries, Moscow, Nauka. Main editorial office of Eastern Literature. 1988, p. 103.

6 Ibid., p. 104.

7 Ibid.

8 Ibid., p. 105.

9 Ibid.

10 Ibid.


12 www.

Sazhin V. I. 13 Iran: October 2010 Economic situation - // - 12 - 10.html


15 Ibidem.

16 iran.php?act=news_by_id&news_id=67094



Grib N., Gabuev A. 19 Russia withdraws Iranian gas from the EU to South Asia / / Kommersant, 27.05.2009.











Dospekhov A. 30 Kremlevskaya razbornaya [Kremlin national team]. Kommersant, 4.12.2010.

31 Le Monde, 29.11.2010.







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