Tehran’s recent hosting of a milestone gas summit demonstrated its strengthening foreign relations ahead of the imminent easing of UN sanctions and its major position in the burgeoning global gas trade in the years to come.
The world’s leading gas producers convened in Tehran on November 23, 2015, for the Third Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) to exchange experiences, views, and policy ideas about the development of the global natural gas industry at the highest level.
Among other top-ranking attendees to the landmark summit were eight heads of state and government, including the first visit to Iran by Russian President Vladimir Putin since 2007, demonstrating the importance increasingly being attached by countries around the world to expanding relations with Iran.
“It is clear that Iran is being paid special attention by the world regarding its possessions of energy and the largest gas reserves in the world,” commented Iranian President Dr Hassan Feridon Rouhani following the summit.
With more than 33 trillion cubic meters of gas, Iran possesses the world’s largest proven gas reserves and is set to become a major part of the global industry. Already among the world’s biggest gas producers, turning out more than 173 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year, although much of it currently being allocated to meeting domestic demand, officials believe Iran must double production to 1.3 bcm a day by 2020 under its development plan.
According to the government, Iran will increase gas exports in 2016 by the optimization of domestic consumption, increasing recovery of energy resources, and the development of the country’s oil and gas sector.
“We will develop the gas industry and its production, as well as gas export to the same extent. We should focus on exporting gas as a clean fuel, therefore one of our priorities is to produce and export gas both through pipelines and LNG,” added Dr Rouhani.
The President expressed his gratitude to the Ministries of Petroleum and Foreign Affairs, as well as law enforcement and security agencies, for the successful handling of the GECF summit and maintaining order and security, which added to Iran’s growing esteem by foreign officials. He also commended Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, for his diplomatic role surrounding the event.
The GECF has its permanent secretariat based in Doha, Qatar, and currently comprises 12 member countries: Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad & Tobago, the UAE, and Venezuela. It also has seven observer members: Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Netherlands, Norway, Oman and Peru.
Together, GECF members account for 67% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, 65% of LNG trade, and 63% of pipeline trade in natural gas.
The previous two editions of the summit were held in Qatar in 2011 and Moscow in 2013. This year’s meeting was held just ahead of the COP21 UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, from November 30 – December 11. GECF member states were keen to highlight in a message to COP21 that “natural gas is capable of easing the world’s transition into the age of renewable energies as the relevant substitute for pollutant fuels, such as coal, currently in widespread use.”