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Missing out on LNG market Iran needs to take action

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Last week, Qatar Petroleum announced the start of drilling operations for the development of its North Field (known in Iran as South Pars) gas field, in which the company plans to drill 80 new wells to increase the country’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) production capacity by 43 percent to reach 110 million tons per annum (Mtpa).

Sharing the world’s biggest gas reserve with Iran, Qatar currently accounts for 33 percent of the global LNG production capacity and this increase will boost the Persian Gulf country’s market share even more. Iran, on the other hand, is not benefiting from the field as much as the tiny Arab neighbor.

The market

Considering the growing demand for natural gas in the Asian markets and all around the world, LNG is becoming one of the world’s most strategic commodities which could play a very important role in the gas-producing countries’ political and economic stance in the future.

Unfortunately, Iran currently does not have any LNG plants and although the country’s gas production from the shared field has exceeded that of Qatar in recent years, the extracted gas is only being exported through pipelines to some neighbors.

The shared field

Iran and Qatar share the South Pars gas field (known as North Dome field in the Qatari side) in the Persian Gulf waters, it is by far the world’s largest natural gas field.

The field was discovered in 1990 and Qatar immediately started developing its share which was called North Dome and began gas production in 1997; Iran, however, started the development operations eight years after Qatar in 1998.

It should be noted that, of the field’s total 9,700 square kilometers, only 3,700 square kilometers is in the Iranian waters and the Arab nation holds almost two-third of the reserves, so the Qataris were ahead of Iran in terms of both time and reserves.

Since the beginning of the development project in 1997 up to 2005, Qatar Petroleum, the Arab country’s National Oil and Gas Company, drilled 401 wells in the field and was producing nearly 565 million cubic meters (mcm) of gas per day.

In 2005 the country halted all the development operations in the field, under a self-imposed development ban. At the time Iran had about 50 wells drilled in the field.

By 2013, the number of drilled wells in the Iranian side reached 110 and later on in 2017, the figure hit 252, resulting in the country’s gas production to exceed 570 mcm/d.

Currently, Iran is producing more gas from the field than Qatar, however, the Qatar petroleum’s announcement means that the Arab nation is getting ready to, once again, hit the gas!

Natural gas or LNG?

Liquefied natural gas (LNG) is natural gas that has been cooled to a liquid state, for shipping and storage. Exporting gas in the LNG form is much easier and more affordable since natural gas can only be exported if the destination markets have land borders with the source and constructing pipelines is a very time consuming and costly endeavor.

As I mentioned before, Iran, currently, does not have any LNG plants, so the country’s share of the natural gas market is drastically lower than its actual capacities for export.

Qatar, on the other hand, is boosting efforts to expand its LNG projects in an attempt to catch up with the newly emerged rivals like the U.S., Australia and Canada.

Iran’s LNG projects

National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) started planning for developing LNG plants across Iran in 2001. In its primary studies, NIOC defined six LNG projects to ensure Iran’s presence in the global LNG market.

These projects include Persian LNG project with a capacity of 16 million tons per year, Pars LNG with a capacity of 10 million tons per year, Iran LNG with a capacity of 11 million tons per year as well as North Pars LNG project with a capacity of 20 million tons per year, Golshan LNG with a production capacity of 10 million tons per year and two small-scale projects with a total production capacity of 3 million tons per year.

The mentioned projects were aimed to achieve the annual production target of 70 million tons of LNG per year. However, in 2015, after the country’s international relations deteriorated over the nuclear issue, the mentioned plan lost its priority for the NIOC and the projects were completely halted due to their reliance on foreign technology and investment.

After the imposition of international sanctions, exporting natural gas to the neighbors became the top priority of the NIOC. 

To prepare the infrastructure for such exports, NIOC defined numerous projects, including an Iran-Pakistan pipeline, and an underwater pipeline for gas exports to Oman. However, despite all the efforts and costs, today, Turkey and Iraq are the only two major customers of the Iranian gas.

Turkey and Iran signed a 25-year agreement in 1996, based on which Iran has been supplying gas to its neighbor via pipeline. Since the agreement is going to expire soon, the two sides have been holding rounds of negotiations to extend the deal. However, there hasn’t been any major progress in negotiations. Iran is asking Turkey to increase the volume of imports and Turkey is asking for more discounts.

Turkey which is simultaneously importing natural gas from Azerbaijan and Russia, is also importing LNG from Qatar and the U.S. The country has also made huge investments in renewable energies; so this means that Iran is gradually losing Turkey’s energy market as well.

As for Iraq, the Islamic Republic is using only 20 percent of its natural gas pipelines capacity to export gas to this Arab neighbor since the country is not a very good customer when it comes to due payments.

Final thoughts

All being said, we can see that despite all the efforts that NIOC has put into the development of the South Pars gas field, the increase in the production cannot be considered a win when the infrastructure is not provided for exports.

Qatar is using the most up to date technologies while Iran needs to indigenize the knowledge since due to the U.S. sanctions it does not have access to such technology.

In the current situation, in which Washington has re-imposed sanctions on Iran’s oil industry and banking system, NIOC could seek help from the country’s allies like China and Russia to transfer LNG knowledge and technology into the country.

We have already lost a lot in the global natural gas market in the past 20 years, and wasting any more time is no longer logical nor affordable.

From our partner Tehran Times

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Indonesian Coal Roadmap: Optimizing Utilization amid Global Tendency to Phasing Out

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Authors: Razin Abdullah and Luky Yusgiantoro*

Indonesia is potentially losing state revenue of around USD 1.64-2.5 billion per year from the coal tax and non-tax revenues. Although currently Indonesia has abundant coal resources, especially thermal coal, the coal market is gradually shrinking. This shrinking market will negatively impact Indonesia’s economy. The revenue can be used for developing the country, such as for the provision of public infrastructures, improving public education and health services and many more.

One of the main causes of the shrinking coal market is the global tendency to shift to renewable energy (RE). Therefore, a roadmap is urgently needed by Indonesia as a guideline for optimizing the coal management so that it can be continuously utilized and not become neglected natural resources. The Indonesian Coal Roadmap should also offer detailed guidance on utilizing coal for the short-term, medium-term and long-term.

Why is the roadmap needed?

Indonesia’s total coal reserves is around 37.6 billion tons. If there are no additional reserves and the assumed production rate is 600 million tons/year, then coal production can continue for another 62 years. Even though Indonesia’s coal production was enormous, most of it was for export. In 2019, the export reached 454.5 million tons or almost 74% of the total production. Therefore, it shows a strong dependency of the Indonesian coal market on exports, with China and India as the main destinations. The strong dependency and the global trend towards clean energy made the threat of Indonesian coal abandonment increasingly real.

China, one of Indonesia’s main coal export destinations, has massive coal reserves and was the world’s largest coal producer. In addition, China also has the ambition to become a carbon-free country by 2060, following the European Union countries, which are targeting to achieve it in 2050. It means China and European Union countries would not produce more carbon dioxide than they captured by 2060 and 2050, respectively. Furthermore, India and China have the biggest and second-biggest solar park in the world. India leads with the 2.245GW Bhadla solar park, while China’s Qinghai solar park has a capacity of 2.2GW. Those two solar parks are almost four times larger than the U.S.’ biggest solar farm with a capacity of 579 MW. The above factors raise concerns that China and India, as the main export destinations for Indonesian coal, will reduce their coal imports in the next few years.

The indications of a global trend towards RE can be seen from the energy consumption trend in the U.S. In 2019, U.S. RE consumption exceeded coal for the first time in over 130 years. During 2008-2019, there has been a significant decrease in U.S coal consumption, down by around 49%. Therefore, without proper coal management planning and demand from abroad continues to decline, Indonesia will lose a large amount of state revenue. The value of the remaining coal resources will also drop drastically.

Besides the global market, the domestic use of coal is mostly intended for electricity generation. With the aggressive development of RE power plant technology, the generation prices are getting cheaper.  Sooner or later, the RE power plant will replace the conventional coal power plant. Therefore, it is necessary to emphasize efforts to diversify coal products by promoting the downstream coal industries in the future Indonesian Coal Roadmap.

What should be included: the short-term plan

In designing the Indonesian Coal Roadmap, a special attention should be paid to planning the diversification of export destinations and the diversification of coal derivative products. In the short term, it is necessary to study the potential of other countries for the Indonesian coal market so that Indonesia is not only dependent on China and India. As for the medium and long term, it is necessary to plan the downstream coal industry development and map the future market potential.

For the short-term plan, the Asian market is still attractive for Indonesian coal. China and India are expected to continue to use a massive amount of coal. Vietnam is also another promising prospective destination. Vietnam is projected to increase its use of coal amidst the growing industrial sector. In this plan, the Indonesian government plays an essential role in building political relations with these countries so that Indonesian coal can be prioritized.

What should be included: the medium and long-term plans

For the medium and long-term plans, it is necessary to integrate the coal supply chain, the mining site and potential demand location for coal. Therefore, the coal logistics chain becomes more optimal and efficient, according to the mining site location, type of coal, and transportation mode to the end-user. Mapping is needed both for conventional coal utilization and downstream activities.

Particularly for the downstream activities, the roadmap needs to include a map of the low-rank coal (LRC) potentials in Indonesia, which can be used for coal gasification and liquefaction. Coal gasification can produce methanol, dimethyl ether (a substitute for LPG) and, indirectly, produce synthetic oil. Meanwhile, the main product of coal liquefaction is synthetic oil, which can substitute conventional oil fuels. By promoting the downstream coal activities, the government can increase coal’s added value, get a multiplier effect, and reduce petroleum products imports.

The Indonesian Coal Roadmap also needs to consider related existing and planned regulations so that it does not cause conflicts in the future. In designing the roadmap, the government needs to involve relevant stakeholders, such as business entities, local governments and related associations.

The roadmap is expected not only to regulate coal business aspects but also to consider environmental aspects. The abandoned mine lands can be used for installing a solar farm, providing clean energy for the country. Meanwhile, the coal power plant is encouraged to use clean coal technology (CCT). CCT includes carbon capture storage (CCS), ultra-supercritical, and advanced ultra-supercritical technologies, reducing emissions from the coal power plant.

*Luky Yusgiantoro, Ph.D. A governing board member of The Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center (PYC).

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Engaging the ‘Climate’ Generation in Global Energy Transition

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photo: IRENA

Renewable energy is at the heart of global efforts to secure a sustainable future. Partnering with young people to amplify calls for the global energy transition is an essential part of this endeavour, as they represent a major driver of development, social change, economic growth, innovation and environmental protection. In recent years, young people have become increasingly involved in shaping the sustainable development discourse, and have a key role to play in propelling climate change mitigation efforts within their respective communities.

Therefore, how might we best engage this new generation of climate champions to accentuate their role in the ongoing energy transition? In short, engagement begins with information and awareness. Young people must be exposed to the growing body of knowledge and perspectives on renewable energy technologies and be encouraged to engage in peer-to-peer exchanges on the subject via new platforms.

To this end, IRENA convened the first IRENA Youth Forum in Abu Dhabi in January 2020, bringing together young people from more than 35 countries to discuss their role in accelerating the global energy transformation. The Forum allowed participants to take part in a truly global conversation, exchanging views with each other as well as with renewable energy experts and representatives from governments around the world, the private sector and the international community.

Similarly, the IRENA Youth Talk webinar, organised in collaboration with the SDG 7 Youth Constituency of the UN Major Group for Children and Youth, presented the views of youth leaders, to identify how young people can further the promotion of renewables through entrepreneurship that accelerates the energy transition.

For example, Joachim Tamaro’s experience in Kenya was shared in the Youth Talk, illustrating how effective young entrepreneurs can be as agents of change in their communities. He is currently working on the East Africa Geo-Aquacultural Development Project – a venture that envisages the use of solar energy to power refrigeration in rural areas that rely on fishing for their livelihoods. The project will also use geothermal-based steam for hatchery, production, processing, storage, preparation and cooking processes.

It is time for governments, international organisations and other relevant stakeholders to engage with young people like Joachim and integrate their contributions into the broader plan to accelerate the energy transition, address climate change and achieve the UN Sustainable Development Agenda.

Business incubators, entrepreneurship accelerators and innovation programmes can empower young people to take their initiatives further. They can give young innovators and entrepreneurs opportunities to showcase and implement their ideas and contribute to their communities’ economic and sustainable development. At the same time, they also allow them to benefit from technical training, mentorship and financing opportunities.

Governments must also engage young people by reflecting their views and perspectives when developing policies that aim to secure a sustainable energy future, not least because it is the youth of today who will be the leaders of tomorrow.

IRENA

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The Urgency of Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) for Indonesia’s Energy Security

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Authors:Akhmad Hanan and Dr. Luky Yusgiantoro*

Indonesia is located in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which has great potential for natural disasters. These disasters have caused damage to energy infrastructure and casualties. Natural disasters usually cut the energy supply chain in an area, causing a shortage of fuel supply and power outages.

Besides natural disasters, energy crisis events occur mainly due to the disruption of energy supplies. This is because of the disconnection of energy facilities and infrastructure by natural disasters, criminal and terrorist acts, escalation in regional politics, rising oil prices, and others. With strategic national energy reserves, particularly strategic petroleum reserves (SPR), Indonesia can survive the energy crisis if it has.

Until now, Indonesia does not have an SPR. Meanwhile, fuel stocks owned by business entities such as PT Pertamina (Persero) are only categorized as operational reserves. The existing fuel stock can only guarantee 20 days of continuity. Whereas in theory, a country has secured energy security if it has a guaranteed energy supply with affordable energy prices, easy access for the people, and environmentally friendly. With current conditions, Indonesia still does not have guaranteed energy security.

Indonesian Law mandates that to ensure national energy security, the government is obliged to provide national energy reserves. This reserve can be used at any time for conditions of crisis and national energy emergencies. It has been 13 years since the energy law was issued, Indonesia does not yet have an SPR.

Lessons from other countries

Many countries in the world have SPR, and its function is to store crude oil and or fuel oil. SPR is built by many developed countries, especially countries that are members of the International Energy Agency (IEA). The IEA was formed due to the disruption of oil supply in the 1970s. To avoid the same thing happening again, the IEA has made a strategic decision by obliging member countries to keep in the SPR for 90 days.

As one of the member countries, the US has the largest SPR in the world. Its storage capacity reaches a maximum of 714 million barrels (estimated to equal 115 days of imports) to mitigate the impact of disruption in the supply of petroleum products and implement US obligations under the international energy program. The US’ SPR is under the control of the US Department of Energy and is stored in large underground salt caves at four locations along the Gulf of Mexico coastline.

Besides the US, Japan also has the SPR. Japan’s SPR capacity is 527 million barrels (estimated to equal 141 days of imports). SPR Japan priority is used for disaster conditions. For example, in 2011, when the nuclear reactor leak occurred at the Fukushima nuclear power plant due to the Tsunami, Japan must find an energy alternative. Consequently, Japan must replace them with fossil fuel power plants, mainly gas and oil stored in SPR.

China, Thailand, and India also have their own SPR. China has an SPR capacity of 400-900 million barrels, Thailand 27.6 million barrels, and India 37.4 million barrels. Singapore does not have an SPR. However, Singapore has operational reserve in the form of fuel stock for up to 90 days which is longer than Indonesia.

Indonesia really needs SPR

The biggest obstacles of developing SPR in Indonesia are budget availability, location selection, and the absence of any derivative regulations from the law. Under the law, no agency has been appointed and responsible for building and managing SPR. Also, government technical regulations regarding the existence and management of SPR in Indonesia is important.

The required SPR capacity in Indonesia can be estimated by calculating the daily consumption from the previous year. For 2019, the national average daily consumption of fuel is 2.6 million kiloliters per day. With the estimation of 90 days of imports, Indonesia’s SPR capacity must at least be more than 100 million barrels to be used in emergencies situations.

For selecting SPR locations, priority can be given to areas that have safe geological structures. East Kalimantan is suitable to be studied as an SPR placement area. It is also geologically safe from disasters and is also located in the middle of Indonesia. East Kalimantan has the Balikpapan oil refinery with the capacity of 260,000 BPD for SPR stock. For SPR funding solution, can use the state budget with a long-term program and designation as a national strategic project.

Another short-term solution for SPR is to use or lease existing oil tankers around the world that are not being used. Should the development of SPR be approved by the government, then the international shipping companies may be able to contribute to its development.

China currently dominates oil tanker shipping in the world, Indonesia can work with China to lease and become Indonesia’s SPR. Actually, this is a good opportunity at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic because oil prices are falling. It would be great if Indonesia could charter some oil tankers and buy fuel to use as SPR. This solution was very interesting while the government prepared long-term planning for the SPR facility. In this way, Indonesia’s energy security will be more secure.

*Dr. Luky Yusgiantoro, governing board member of The Purnomo Yusgiantoro Center (PYC).

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