TEHRAN, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Iran plans to build a Persian Pipeline for shipping its natural gas to Europe that would be independent of the EU-backed Nabucco project, a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying on Monday.
Iran, which has the world’s second-largest gas reserves after Russia, had previously suggested it could hook up to the planned Nabucco pipeline that is meant to bring Central Asian gas to Europe, bypassing Russia and reducing EU dependence on Moscow for energy.
But analysts have said it was doubtful the 27-nation EU would support such a move, as the Islamic Republic is under U.N. and U.S. sanctions over its disputed nuclear programme. The sanctions have slowed Tehran’s gas export plans.
“We have nothing to do with the Nabucco pipeline and since the European Union announced ... it does not need Iran’s gas we have designed a new plan independent of Nabucco,” Akbar Torkan, head of Oil Ministry planning, told the ministry’s website Shana.
The Nabucco pipeline is due to bring 30 billion cubic metres of Caspian and Middle Eastern gas a year from Turkey to an Austrian gas hub via Bulgaria, Romania and Hungary.
EU support for the scheme has gained urgency since Russia’s invasion of Georgia in August stoked tensions with the West.
Torkan said a number of European countries — Turkey, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Italy and Greece — were interested in buying gas from Iran.
“In an effort to respond to the needs of these (countries) the Persian gas pipeline will be constructed from Iran to Europe,” Torkan said.
“There will be no competition with the Nabucco pipeline and the path of the Persian Pipeline ... is separate from the Nabucco pipeline,” he said, without giving details on when it would be constructed and how much it would cost.
Nabucco’s shareholders are Austria’s OMV (OMVV.VI), Hungary’s MOL(MOLB.BU), Romania’s Transgaz TGNM.BX, Bulgaria’s Bulgargaz, Turkey’s Botas and Germany’s RWE (RWEG.DE). The pipeline is expected to cost around $12 billion.
But there has been uncertainty that it can secure enough gas supplies from nations that were once part of the Soviet Union and are subject to intense lobbying by Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM), whose planned South Stream pipeline will rival Nabucco.
MOL’s chief executive last month said Nabucco would become a reality if Iran comes on board as a supplier.
The Nabucco consortium aims to ship gas through the first section of the link from 2013 and says it has already had indications of interest for more than twice the volume of gas the pipeline can carry. (Reporting by Hashem Kalantari; Writing by Fredrik Dahl; Editing by Anthony Barker)