10/23/2008, 00.00
RUSSIA – IRAN – QATAR
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‘Troika’ to coordinate gas exports

Three biggest gas reserve holders meet to discuss joint decision-making on gas sales. Their goal is to maintain high prices and control the market the way OPEC controls oil.
Tehran (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Representatives from Russia, Iran and Qatar, respectively the world’s 1, 2 and 3 gas reserve holders, met in Tehran on 21 October to discuss trilateral cooperation and the possibility of forming a cartel of gas-exporting countries, similar to the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Iranian Oil Minister Gholamhussein Nozari said the three “have almost 60 per cent of the world's total gas reserves” and are “seriously interested in forming an organisation of gas-exporting countries.”

But wanting a deal and striking it are not the same thing since “gas, unlike oil, is not sold on the world market,” Charles Esser, an energy analyst, told Radio Free Europe. The exception is “liquefied natural gas, LNG, which is still a very small share of the market.”

“The transportation of natural gas to consumers also differs greatly from transporting oil,” Esser noted. “Most of the [gas] market is [. . .] 'stranded',” requiring land infrastructures like pipelines “from certain suppliers with whom” consumers “have very long-term contracts, sometimes 25-year contracts,” Esser said.

Furthermore, the three countries have different interests to address, and it is doubtful that all parties are really interested in a global gas cartel.

For this reason Russia, which has been trying to build a cartel to set prices, might fall back on a ‘Gas Troika’.

“We have agreed to hold regular—three or four times per year—meetings of the 'big gas troika' to discuss key issues of gas market developments,” said in Tehran Gazprom Chief Executive Aleksei Miller.

A committee of technical specialists would meet in Doha, Qatar's capital, next week, he added.

For Esser though Russia might not be that keen on the idea anyway, more interested instead in holding down its own hegemonic position than in allowing other countries to sell more gas,

"A more likely result would be a kind of coordination to maybe restrict some competition” and “keep market prices higher,” Esser said.

Concern about gas price hikes this and last year and OPEC’s refusal to increase oil output have led consuming countries to oppose such a possibility.

Europe already uses a huge amount of gas—more than 300 billion cubic metres annually—and one of its main suppliers, Russia's gas giant Gazprom, said that the price of gas for Europe could reach US$ 500 per 1,000 cubic metres next year.

Meanwhile Russia has invited—along with Iran and Qatar—Algeria, Indonesia, Libya, Malaysia, Nigeria, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela to forum of gas-exporting countries on 18 November.

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