How realistic is import of Iranian natural gas?, Georgia
July 12 2004

How realistic is import of Iranian natural gas?
By M. Alkhazashvili

As soon as four months from now Georgia will be able to import
natural gas from Iran if needs be, claims Minister of Energy Nika
Gilauri after the recent visit of President Saakashvili to the
Islamic Republic of Iran.

A serious problem for Georgia’s national security is the fact that
Georgia depends very much on Russia’s energy carriers. Russia has
become the sole supplier of natural gas to Georgia. This fact,
analysts say, gives Russia the opportunity to fix prices or even put
political pressure on Georgia.

One alternative to Russian natural gas is the recently emerging Azeri
supply. The Baku-Tbilisi-Erzerum natural gas pipeline requires
another 3-4 years to be completed. In the current situation, in case
the Russian gas supply to Georgia is cut off, the country will be
very vulnerable.

As Georgia’s Minister for Energy mentioned, the Tbilisi
administration believes it absolutely unacceptable to rely on Russian
natural gas and thus is seriously searching for an alternative means
of supply. It looks like after the visit of the president in Iran the
real steps were taken toward this direction.

For Iran, there is no obstacle to delivering natural gas either to
the Armenian or Azeri border. To transit gas through Armenia, a new
pipeline should be constructed which would cost approximately USD 180
million. It is more realistic for Georgia to transit Iranian gas
through Azerbaijan since in this case they only need to rehabilitate
an already existing pipeline system from the Iran-Azeri border to
Baku and then from Baku to Georgia.

Minister Gilauri most probably meant this route when he mentioned
that Georgia could receive Iranian natural gas already thorough the
existed pipeline system, which needed only four months and USD 1.8

“In spite of the fact that Iranian gas costs twice the Russian price,
an alternative source for natural gas is found,” Gilauri told
Rezonansi. Despite the fact that importing Iranian natural gas is
expensive, officials still believe it is very important to have an
alternative supply for when ever needs be.