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Iranian Minister Claims Outlandish Gas Production Figures

A general view shows a unit of South Pars Gas field in Asalouyeh Seaport, north of Persian Gulf. File photo

Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh announced January 21 that the country’s average gas production during last ten months (March 2018-Jan 2019) reached 840 million cubic meters per day (mcm/d), of which 600 mcm/d came from the giant South Pars field, shared with Qatar.

He said Iranian gas production from this common field with Qatar is now above the neighbor’s output.

The statistics, mentioned above are in huge contrast with both National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) as well as estimates by international organizations and companies.

NIGC’s website covered Zanganeh’s speech, but eliminated the gas production figures he mentioned, though Iranian local media as well as Reuters, etc. have published those statistics.

Zanganeh also compared production levels with 2012, saying that Iran increased gas production by 35% from 2012, which was an odd year with very low production. NIGC’s official statistics show that Iran’s gas production decreased dramatically in 2012 from the previous year but resumed in 2013 and steadily grew to about 670 mcm/d by March 2018.

The possible reason why the oil minister has exaggerated gas production levels is to show his achievements and try to prove that U.S. sanctions have not affected Iran’s capabilities in the energy sector.

Verifying the statistics

Though NIGC hasn’t published any statistics about production level during the current fiscal year, but it had put the figure for 10 months of last year (March 21, 2017-january 21, 2018) at 200.6 billion cubic meters (bcm) or 668 mcm/d.

Iran hasn’t commissioned any new gas fields or new phases of South Pars during 2018, though in October 2018 it only installed a platform in phase 14 with a modest 14 mcm/d production capacity.

Therefore, producing 840 mcm/d gas (25.7% growth year-on-year) during last ten months is very unlikely.

According to reports by British Petroleum (BP), OPEC, the Energy Information Administration and others, Iran’s total gas production in 2017 stood between 620-650 mcm/d.

Coming to South Pars, which Iran shares a third of the field, NIGC’s official statistics show that Iran produced 172 bcm during the whole of last fiscal year from this field, which equals 471 mcm/d. But this is the gross production, including losses. NIGC says that processed gas (sweet gas, which is ready for use) production from South Pars stood at 405 mcm/d.

On the other hand, almost all of Qatar’s 480 mcm/d gas production comes from South Pars. The country has started development of this common field 10 years earlier than Iran. Qatar, which owns two-thirds of the reserves in the giant field (on the Qatari side it is called North Dome), has produced cumulatively 2.7 trillion cubic meters, or more than twice what Iran has produced as of now.

Gas shortage in Iran

Despite Zanganeh’s claims of huge gas production growth, the country’s official statistics show that Iran faced gas shortage this winter - like last winter- and forced to halve gas deliveries to power plants.

“Iran’s housing sector is using 540 mcm/d, a record level and expected to rise further in the coming days as temperatures fall further”, National Iranian Gas Company said January 17. This has left less available gas for power generation, it said.

The latest weekly energy ministry statistics show that gas deliveries to power plants fell to 92 mcm/d in the first three weeks of winter (December 21- January 11), compared with 212 mcm/d averages during the first nine months of the current fiscal year (March 21-December 21, 2018).

As a result, the power sector has used about four times more diesel and fuel oil, or 61mn litres/d this winter.