Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 21 September 2019

Oman plan to import Iranian gas 'not completely in hibernation', energy minister says

Scheme to import up to 10 billion cubic metres of gas annually slowed due to pricing disagreements

Rumhy said the sultanate’s $6 billion Duqm refinery project, the country's largest-single phase scheme, is ahead of schedule. Victor Besa / The National
Rumhy said the sultanate’s $6 billion Duqm refinery project, the country's largest-single phase scheme, is ahead of schedule. Victor Besa / The National

Oman’s project to receive Iranian gas via pipeline is not dead, though momentum has slowed, according to the sultanate’s energy minister.

"There are some issues we’re talking about but we’re trying to keep the momentum going, so it’s not completely in hibernation. It’s going well, but it’s going slow,” Mohammed Al Rumhy told reporters in Abu Dhabi.

Oman, the largest Middle East oil producer outside Opec, has been in discussions with its gas-rich neighbour to import up to 28.3 million cubic metres of gas per day via a pipeline that would bypass the UAE's territorial waters. Preliminary agreements included plans to deliver up to 10 billion cubic metres of natural gas annually under a 25-year deal.

The sultanate, which has sparse gas reserves, was looking at imported fuel from Iran to meet its domestic requirements. Tehran, which found a fresh lease to start exporting its hydrocarbons following the signing of a nuclear deal which eased sanctions with major world powers in 2015, was also keen to have Oman as a reliable offtaker for its gas. However, disputes over pricing of gas as well as the re-imposition of US sanctions on Iran have slowed the pace of development.

Despite this, both sides have remained keen to continue dialogue. In November, following the re-imposition of sanctions, the head of state-owned National Iranian Gas Export Company said in comments reported by the Financial Tribune that talks were ongoing with Oman to finalise co-operation on the pipeline. The scheme also includes plans for liquefied natural gas facilities in the sultanate to re-export the Iranian gas.

Mr Rumhy said the sultanate’s $6 billion (Dh22bn) Duqm refinery project, the country's largest-single phase scheme, is “slightly ahead of schedule” and was targeting a 2022 start. The planned 230,000 barrel-per-day refinery being developed by Oman Oil Corporation in a joint venture with Kuwait Petroleum International awarded engineering, procurement and construction contracts in three packages to consortiums in 2017.

The sultanate began development of greenfield refining and petrochemical projects across its port cities and undertook expansion on existing facilities as low oil prices squeezed budgets following the price crash in 2016. Oman began to shift priorities and invest downstream in order to compensate for the country’s lacklustre upstream sector, looking to profit from the sale of complex crude products.

Updated: September 11, 2019 04:26 PM

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