Pakistan's Options: Domestic Shale Gas or Iran Pipeline?

There are strong rumors that Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has joined the United States to oppose Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project for which Pakistan is trying to arrange financing in the face of tightening US sanction on Iran.

The Chinese have already pulled out of the project after the US imposed sanctions on banks and other entities dealing with projects and transactions involving Iran. Russia's Gazprom is reportedly interested in financing and constructing the Pakistan section of the pipeline, but only on the condition that the project be awarded to it without any competitive bidding.

The question now is how should Pakistan deal with the situation? Can Pakistan satisfy its growing energy needs without alienating the Saudis and avoiding crippling US sanctions which could be more damaging than its current energy crisis?

To answer these questions, let's first examine the following facts:

1. Pakistan has at least 50 trillion cubic feet of recoverable domestic shale gas reserves, according to US Energy Information Administration.



2. US oil and gas companies are pioneers and leaders in shale gas development. In fact, these firms have been so successful that there is now a gas glut in the United States and gas prices have plummeted to less than $2 per mmBTU (approx 1000 cubic feet).



3. Iran-Pakistan deal requires Pakistan to pay $11-12 per mmBTU for its gas, six times the current price in the United States. Since the pricing formula for Iranian gas is based on the price of oil, it's almost certain that Pakistan will end up paying more than $12 per mmBTU with rising oil prices in the future.



4. Pakistan needs investment and technical know-how to develop its shale gas reserves to assure cheap and abundant energy supply.

Considering the above-mentioned facts, I think the best option for Pakistan is to go with its own domestic shale gas at a fraction of the price Iran is demanding.

Pakistan's best interest is not in defying Saudis and Americans to buy expensive Iranian gas and end up with crippling sanctions which could be much worse than its current energy crisis. Its best interests will be served by developing its own cheap domestic shale gas on an accelerated schedule with Saudi investment and US tech know-how. If the Americans and the Saudis refuse to help, then Pakistan will have a stronger case to go with the Iran gas option.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Pakistan Needs Shale Gas Revolution

Pakistan's Vast Shale Gas Reserves

US Can Help Pakistan Overcome Energy Crisis

Abundant and Cheap Coal Electricity

US Dept of Energy Report on Shale Gas

Pakistan's Twin Energy Crises

Pakistan's Electricity Crisis

Pakistan's Gas Pipeline and Distribution Network

Pakistan's Energy Statistics

US Department of Energy Data

Electrification Rates By Country

CO2 Emissions, Birth, Death Rates By Country

China Signs Power Plant Deals in Pakistan

Pakistan Pursues Hydroelectric Projects

Pakistan Energy Industry Overview

Water Scarcity in Pakistan

Energy from Thorium

Comparing US and Pakistani Tax Evasion

Zardari Corruption Probe

Pakistan's Oil and Gas Report 2010

Circular Electricity Debt Problem

International CNG Vehicles Association

Rare Earths at Reko Diq?

Lessons From IPP Experience in Pakistan

Correlation Between Human Development and Energy Consumption

BMI Energy Forecast Pakistan

Comments

Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Business Recorder report on Pakistan to renegotiating Iran gas price:

Pakistan will renegotiate gas price with Iran under the (IP) gas pipeline project as the price of Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas is cheaper, sources close to Petroleum Secretary told Business Recorder.

This was disclosed at a meeting of Economic Co-ordination Committee (ECC) of the Cabinet held on April 12, 2012 under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh.

The IP gas price was $11 per mmcfd while Tapi was estimated at $13 per mmcfd.

However, a week ago in a meeting in the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources it was revealed that Turkmenistan has agreed to reduce the price from 55 percent price parity with international crude price to 45 percent.

In addition, Pakistan would also earn a transit fee from Tapi while India is not party to IP anymore.

Official documents available with Business Recorder reveal that the ECC was informed that matter for signing of Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with regard to TAPI gas pipeline project, during the visit of the Turkmen President on 14th November 2011, was placed before the ECC in its meeting held on 11th November 2011.

However, the ECC decided that, instead of signing GSPA at this stage, a single-page document containing the intention of both the governments of Pakistan and Turkmenistan, may be signed during the visit of the Turkmen President and the draft GSPA be annexed to that one-page document, for subject approval of the government.

The ECC also constituted a committee for drafting the proposed one-page document.

The committee prepared the requisite one-page document (Joint Declaration), which was accordingly signed by both sides on 14th November 2011.

Subsequently, the matter of TAPI GSPA including gas price formula, agreed base price, risk sharing mechanism with regard to transportation cost, transit fee and gas price review mechanism was considered by the ECC in its meeting held on 20th January, 2012.

The ECC constituted a committee headed by the Minister for Water and Power to examine the details concerning price and pricing formula for gas to be imported from Turkmenistan and submit its recommendation to the ECC.

Qamar-led committee in its meeting held on 6th April, 2012 examined the gas price formula, agreed based price, risk sharing mechanism with regard to transportation cost, transit fee and gas price review mechanism and recommended it for approval of the ECC.

Based upon the foregoing, the ECC was requested to approve the draft GSPA for execution by Inter State Gas Systems (Pvt) Ltd with Turkmenistan (Turkmengaz) including gas price formula, agreed to, risk sharing mechanism and gas price review mechanism.

During the ensuing discussion, it was explained that gas to be imported from Turkmenistan will be cheaper than the gas to be imported from Iran.

Resultantly, Pakistan will be able to re-negotiate the gas price with Iran.

On a query, the ECC was informed that penalty clauses in TAPI GSPA are similar to those contained in Iran-Pakistan GSPA, where-under Pakistan will be liable for payment towards cost of gas even if no gas is imported.

These conditions will be effective after construction of pipeline.....


http://www.brecorder.com/market-data/stocks-a-bonds/0/1179789/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an excerpt from Wikipedia entry on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline:

Discussions between the governments of Iran and Pakistan started in 1994.[3] A preliminary agreement was signed in 1995. This agreement foresaw construction of a pipeline from South Pars gas field to Karachi in Pakistan. Later Iran made a proposal to extend the pipeline from Pakistan into India. In February 1999, a preliminary agreement between Iran and India was signed.[4]

In 2004 the project was revived after the UNDP's report Peace and Prosperity Gas Pipelines by Gulfaraz Ahmed was published in December 2003. The report highlighted benefits of the pipeline to Pakistan, India and Iran.[citation needed]

In February 2007, India and Pakistan agreed to pay Iran US$4.93 per million British thermal units (US$4.67/GJ) but some details relating to price adjustment remained open to further negotiation.[5]

In April 2008, Iran expressed interest in the People's Republic of China's participation in the project.[6] In August 2010, Iran invited Bangladesh to join the project.[7]

In 2009, India withdrew from the project over pricing and security issues, and after signing a civilian nuclear deal with the United States in 2008.[8][9] However, in March 2010 India called on Pakistan and Iran for trilateral talks to be held in May 2010 in Tehran.[10]

In January 2010, the United States asked Pakistan to abandon the pipeline project. If canceling the project, Pakistan would receive assistance from the United States for construction of a liquefied natural gas terminal and importing electricity from Tajikistan through Afghanistan's Wakhan Corridor.[11] However, on 16 March 2010 in Ankara, Iran and Pakistan signed an agreement on the pipeline.[8] According to the agreement each country must complete its section by 2014.[12] In July 2011, Iran announced that it has completed construction of its section.[13] If Pakistan does not fulfill its obligation to complete the pipeline on its side by the end of 2014, it will have to pay a daily penalty of $1 million to Iran until completion.[14] On 13 March 2012 Pakistan's ministry of finance announced that private investors were showing diminished interest and that the government might have to impose a tax on consumers, or seek government-to-government arrangements with Iran, China and Russia to build the pipeline. On 29 March it was reported that officials from Pakistan’s petroleum ministry would travel to Russia in early April for talks with Gazprom.[12] Then, in a 7 April article the Pakistani daily PakTribune reported that Gazprom would both finance and construct the pipeline. This would require setting aside the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority rules which require international bidding for such a large project. The Economic Coordination Committee would be asked in its next meeting to give such permission. The article also informed that the reason the private consortium no longer would contribute to the project was US opposition.[14]

On 15 April 2012 it was reported through unnamed diplomatic sources in Islamabad that Saudi Arabia was offering to deliver an "alternative package" to Pakistan if the country abandoned its cooperation with Iran. In addition to oil the package would also include a cash loan and oil facility. The news came in connection with a visit to Pakistan by the Saudi deputy foreign minister.[15]


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iran%E2%80%93Pakistan%E2%80%93India_gas_pipeline
Riaz Haq said…
Here's ET report on IP and TAPI pipelines:

The Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) scheduled to meet today (Thursday) is likely to allow the petroleum ministry to sign Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with Turkmenistan to materialise the $7.6 billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project.

Pakistan and Turkmenistan were scheduled to sign the GSPA agreement on April 17 but postponed it due to negotiations between India, Afghanistan and Pakistan on transit fee here in Islamabad next week, a government official told The Express Tribune.

Official said that Pakistan and Turkmenistan had finalised to keep gas price at 70% of crude oil price, much lower than the 78% parity agreed with Iran in the Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline.

“The two countries have agreed to review gas price after every five years,” official said adding that now GSPA is expected to be signed on May 20 in Turkmenistan. Earlier, Pakistan wanted to review gas price after three years keeping in view the trend in oil prices while Turkmenistan wanted it to be fixed for ten years.

The three countries will hold two-day talks from Monday in Islamabad to discuss the fees for transmission of gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India. In discussions already held on transit fees, Afghanistan opted for Pakistan to pay the fee in the form of gas but Pakistan opposed and proposed to pay it in cash.

Under the initial TAPI project, Pakistan and India are both scheduled to receive 1.365 billion cubic feet of gas per day (bcfd) and Afghanistan 0.5 bcfd.

However, Afghanistan in a meeting earlier this year with Pakistan informed that it does not want gas supply from the project anymore and only transit fee for use of its territory.

If Afghanistan withdraws, its share will be evenly distributed between Pakistan and India,” official said adding that this issue will also come under discussion during talks scheduled next week.

Afghan and Pakistani officials had discussed three different proposals in first week of February in Islamabad relating transit fee that included fee in cash or kind and fixed fee in dollar term on volume of gas from Turkmenistan. The last option was to link transit fee with per kilometre length of gas pipeline. “These proposals will again be discussed to reach agreement on transit fee,” official added.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/363327/tapi-project-ecc-likely-to-give-approval-for-signing-part-of-the-deal/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an ET report on Pakistan Oil Fields performance:

Rs9.33 billion in the first nine months of fiscal 2012 with rising oil and gas prices acting as a blessing.

International oil prices, key determinant of local rates, have increased by an estimated 11% to $101 per barrel on a yearly basis. Similarly, price for gas is estimated to have increased by 13% to Rs290 per million cubic feet on a yearly basis.

This took the company’s net revenue up 21% to Rs22.0 billion during July 2011 and March 2012, according to a notice sent to the Karachi Stock Exchange.

Other income surged 71% amid higher payouts from its associate companies and improved cash position. Attock Group of Companies’ exploration wing booked dividend from National Refinery in the second quarter of the financial year.

Decline in exploration cost of 68% culminated from conservative exploration activity and announcement of no dry well helped bring down expenses.

Marginal increase in company’s oil and gas production, up approximately 4% and 3% respectively, on account of higher production from its non-operating Tal block compensated subdued production from its operating block.

However, earning growth was partially diluted due to increase in company’s amortisation and decommissioning cost. The company booked amortisation and decommissioning cost worth of Rs1.4 billion against Rs763 million last year.

The company reported the negative surprise in the previous quarter under ‘amortisation and decommissioning cost’, which is expected to persist going forward.

The company’s stock price crawled up 0.62% to Rs377.72 amid announcement of results in line with market expectations.

The stock has underperformed the benchmark stock index by 9% in 2012 owing to concerns of dry well findings in Domial and Dhulian Deep.

However, news flows from Dhulian Deep and Makori East-2 to act as near-term triggers for the stock.

Meanwhile, Attock Petroleum’s profits jumped 14% to Rs4.47 billion on the back of improved volumetric sales by 21% on a yearly basis.


http://tribune.com.pk/story/367444/corporate-results-pakistan-oilfields-profits-jump-19/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a NY Times report on India's fuel shortages hurting electricity generation:

India — India has long struggled to provide enough electricity to light its homes and power its industry around the clock. In recent years, the government and private sector sought to change that by building scores of new power plants.

But that campaign is now running into difficulties because the country cannot get enough fuel — principally coal — to run the plants. Clumsy policies, poor management and environmental concerns have hampered the country’s efforts to dig up fuel fast enough to keep up with its growing need for power.

A complex system of subsidies and price controls has limited investment, particularly in resources like coal and natural gas. It has also created anomalies, like retail electricity prices that are lower than the cost of producing power, which lead to big losses at state-owned utilities. An unsettled debate about how much of its forests India should turn over to mining has also limited coal production.

The power sector’s problems have substantially contributed to a second year of slowing economic growth in India, to an estimated 7 percent this year, from nearly 10 percent in 2010. Businesses report that more frequent blackouts have forced them to lower production and spend significantly more on diesel fuel to run backup generators.

The slowdown is palpable at Sowmya Industries, a small company that makes metal shutters that hold wet concrete in place while it solidifies into columns and beams, a crucial tool for the construction industry.

The company, located outside this city on the southeast coast of India, is struggling with several issues, including a 20 percent increase in the price of raw materials and falling orders.

But Sowmya’s manager, R. Narasimha Murthy, said the lack of reliable power was an even bigger problem. His company loses three hours of power every evening. And all day on Wednesdays and Saturdays — euphemistically called “power holidays” — it receives only enough electricity to turn on the lights but not enough to use its large metal-cutting machines.
-------------
A major problem is the anemic production of coal, which provides 55 percent of India’s electricity. Coal production increased just 1 percent last year while power plant capacity jumped 11 percent. Some electricity producers have been importing coal, but that option has become more untenable recently because India’s biggest supplier, Indonesia, has doubled coal prices.
------------
For many businesses, the power shortage has become debilitating.

In the southern state of Tamil Nadu, Srihari Balakrishnan, a textile factory owner, said he goes through 6,300 gallons of diesel fuel on an average day to keep his operation running, spending $3,000 more than he would if power were available around the clock.

“We are not able to use 20 to 30 percent of our capacity,” he said. “We can’t use grid power for two full days of the week. When we have power, we have a six-hour cut,” he added, using an Indian term for blackouts.
----------
Other companies are also stuck. Reliance Power, controlled by the investor Anil Ambani, says it has stopped construction on a large electricity plant nearby because it can no longer afford to buy coal from Indonesia as planned.


http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/20/business/global/india-struggles-to-deliver-enough-electricity-for-growth.h
Riaz Haq said…
Here's Economic Times report on $10 per mmBTU TAPI gas price for India:

Natural gas from Turkmenistan would be delivered to India at an estimated price of about $10 per unit, including $3 as transportation charges and transit fee, in the proposed 1,680-km pipeline via Afghanistan and Pakistan, three persons with direct knowledge of the matter said.

Gas would be purchased at about $7 per unit at Turkmenistan but its cost would rise as it transits across two countries before reaching the Punjab border. It would be cheaper than some long-term LNG contracts, government and industry officials said. Gas-starved India pays a spot price of about $16 a unit for liquefied natural gas. Petronet LNG has recently contracted LNG import from Australia's Gorgon project at $15.8 per unit while Gail's 20-year contract with US' Sabine Pass works out to be around $10 per unit.


http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-03-29/news/31254829_1_tapi-pipeline-transit-fee-turkmenistan
Riaz Haq said…
Here's an FT report on Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline:

...Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, unexpectedly cancelled a trip to Iran at the last minute in December, amid concerns in Islamabad over stiff US opposition to a project considered essential for tackling mounting energy shortages. Some Pakistani officials had expected Mr Zardari to consent to the project during the trip.

The plan would see Pakistan build a pipeline connecting its national gas supply grid in the southern Sindh province to the Iranian border in southwest Baluchistan. Iranian officials say they have already built the pipeline on their side of the border to within 100km of Pakistan.

The US has opposed the pipeline on the grounds it would inject foreign exchange into the Iranian economy at a time when western countries have imposed a number of ever tighter sanctions in an effort to prevent Tehran from advancing its nuclear weapons programme.

Independent economists said it was too early to predict whether the project would go ahead. “The companies involved from Pakistan may face the danger of being exposed to US-led western sanctions,” warned Sakib Sherani, an economist. “There are also technical issues in undertaking such a large project.”

However, Islamabad has become all too aware of the political and economic risks posed by chronic electricity shortages after people took to the streets in cities across the country last summer in protest at power cuts up to 20 hours long.

Pakistan appeared confident the US would not hit it with tough sanctions, according to a senior western diplomat in Islamabad. “In their [Pakistan’s] calculus, they believe that the US needs Pakistan to ensure a successful drawdown from Afghanistan by December next year,” the diplomat said.

“The Pakistanis probably believe there will be a lot of huff and puff but no painful sanctions. In all honesty, Pakistan has a terrible situation on energy and these [energy] shortages can undermine the country’s stability.”

Iran has offered its neighbour at least $500m to help finance the project. The money was “just the beginning”, the Pakistani official said. “The Iranians have said they will provide more funding for this project if there is a need.”

The Iranian pipeline offers Pakistan the shortest supply route from any gas surplus country, officials say. Asim Hussain, chief adviser on oil and natural resources to the government, told the FT last December: “It’s a feasible project for Pakistan. It’s the quickest route, the cheapest route where we can fulfil our energy needs.”


http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/3a2abb18-6bbe-11e2-a700-00144feab49a.html
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a report on Iran-Pak gas pipeline deal by AEI, a conservative American think tank:

On January 30, Pakistan’s cabinet ratified a $1.5 billion agreement with Iran for the laying of nearly 500 miles of pipeline in Pakistan that would connect the country’s gas infrastructure to Iran’s massive South Pars natural gas fields. The pipeline would potentially add over 750 million cubic feet of gas per day to Pakistan’s grid at a time when the country faces crippling energy shortages with some cities suffering frequent protests against 20 hour-long power outages.

Iran offered cash-strapped Pakistan over $500 million in financing to lay the Pakistani section of the pipeline after several private and sovereign foreign entities backed out of the plan over fears of incurring U.S. ire for participating in the project (and when Pakistan refused to award contracts to some without bidding). The Iranians have offered even more funding if the Pakistanis demonstrate seriousness in going ahead with and completing the project. Pakistan, in return, has offered the contract for the construction of the Pakistani segment of the pipeline to an Iranian company called Tadbir Energy (Iran has already largely completed its section).

Tadbir Energy is an Iranian firm that “isn’t sanctioned by any foreign government,” and in July 2012, it made a bid to take over the failing Petit-Couronne refinery in France. The Iranian firm, however, is a subsidiary of the Headquarters for Implementing the Imam’s Directive (HIID), also known as the Imam Khomeini Foundation, an investment firm linked to Iran’s Office of the Supreme Leader. The European Union sanctioned the president of HIID, Mohammad Mokhber, in 2010 for his involvement in Iranian “nuclear or ballistic missiles activities.” Mokhber is also a member of the Sina Bank board of directors, sanctioned by the European Union for its close ties to the Office of the Supreme Leader.

It will be important to watch whether the conclusion of the pipeline agreement leads to further cracks in the U.S.-Pakistan relationship, especially at a time when the U.S. appears to be looking to Pakistan to help facilitate reconciliation in Afghanistan as the U.S. continues to draw down troops from the country. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton warned in March 2012 that “beginning the construction of [the] pipeline, either as an Iranian project or as a joint project, would violate [U.S.] Iran sanctions law.” For a time, it appeared as if Pakistan was sensitive to U.S. concerns over Iran and gave some indications that it may scrap or indefinitely delay the pipeline project due to U.S. objections. Pakistan appears now to have calculated that its short-term energy needs are too great, and the threat of U.S. sanctions not strong enough, for it to forgo the deal.

It will also be important to monitor whether Pakistan’s decision to cut a deal with the Iranians has a significant impact on loosening western sanctions on Iran and what sanctions or other fallout, if any, it may face for spurning U.S. entreaties vis-à-vis Iran and engaging with an Iranian company closely linked to already-sanctioned entities.


http://www.criticalthreats.org/pakistan/jan-fulton-iran-pakistan-pipeline-moves-forward-despite-us-opposition-february-5-2013
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a PakObserver report on possible US energy assistance for Pakistan:

With Pakistan fast heading to sign transnational pipeline project with Iran, US is most likely to offer a comprehensive but conditional energy assistance package as alternate to the Iranian gas.

According to diplomatic sources, the Obama Administration was contemplating to use a luring carrot this time to make Pakistan deliver in the so-called endgame in Afghanistan, besides refraining from translational gas pipeline from Iran.

Since the American strategists were working on a long-term plan to keep an influence centre in Afghanistan even after announced withdrawal of US/Nato troops from the war-torn country, they need Pakistan as a strategic partner even beyond war on terror. “That is why you hear a lot of talk back in Washington about focussing on Pakistan as a long-term partner rather than just a war ally or a facilitator of the endgame,” the sources pointed out.

The sources were of the view juxtaposition of anti-Iran and anti-drones sentiments in the American society may benefit this time in terms of a comprehensive American energy assistance package. “But this time the governments in Pakistan would have to deliver, if they really need their energy woes to be done away with,” the sources added. Consistent voices against the drones from within and outside Pakistan have perhaps made US Administration to understand that drones were practically appearing to be counter productive to the war on terror entering the decisive phase now, they underlined.

Other than strategic and political conditionality attached to prospective energy assistance package, the government in Pakistan would have to expand tax net, end blindfold government borrowing, and culture of vague subsidies.

When asked to comment on possibilities of a new US energy assistance package, US Embassy spokesperson Rian Harris said such proposals and details are not known at the embassy level in advance.

Asked what US law bars Pakistan or any other nation to indulge in business with Iran as India was also buying oil from the same country, she said, “US policy on Iran has not changed.”

“U.S. policy on Iran is well known. We have made it clear to all our interlocutors around the world that it is in their interests to avoid activities that may be prohibited by UN sanctions or sanctionable under U.S. law,” she went on.

“We recognise that Pakistan has significant energy requirements and US are committed to helping alleviate shortfalls,” Rain adds

She reminded, that is why we have invested in major energy infrastructure projects, such as renovating the Tarbela and Mangla dams, modernising the thermal power plants in Guddu, Jamshoro and Muzaffargarh, and building the Satpara and Gomal Zam dams.

These efforts have already added more than 400 megawatts of power to the national grid, and will add a total of 950MW — enough power for 2 million households — by the end of this year,” she said.

Asked how India was exempted from sanctions and buying oil from Iran, she said, “the National Defence Authorisation Act provides the ability to grant exceptions of 180 days to those countries that demonstrate they are significantly reducing their volumes of crude oil imports from Iran.

In December the Secretary of State granted exemptions to nine economies that demonstrated significant reductions of crude oil imports, including India.

Economies must take continuous steps to earn a renewal of the exemption for another 180 days through continued reductions in their purchases,” she concluded.


http://pakobserver.net/detailnews.asp?id=197926
Riaz Haq said…
Here are excerpts of Pepe Escobar's RT.com Op Ed on Iran-Pakistan pipeline:

..When Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Zardari met at the Iranian port of Chabahar in early March, that was a long way after IP was first considered in 1994 – then as Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI), also known as the 'peace pipeline.' Subsequent pressure by both Bush administrations was so overwhelming that India abandoned the idea in 2009.

IP is what the Chinese call a win-win deal. The Iranian stretch is already finished. Aware of Islamabad’s immense cash flow problems, Tehran is loaning it $500 million, and Islamabad will come up with $1 billion to finish the Pakistani section. It’s enlightening to note that Tehran only agreed to the loan after Islamabad certified it won’t back out (unlike India) under Washington pressure.

IP, as a key umbilical (steel) cord, makes a mockery of the artificial – US-encouraged – Sunni-Shia divide. Tehran needs the windfall, and the enhanced influence in South Asia. Ahmadinejad even cracked that “with natural gas, you cannot make atomic bombs.”

Zardari, for his part, boosted his profile ahead of Pakistan’s elections on May 11. With IP pumping 750 million cubic feet of natural gas into the Pakistani economy everyday, power cuts will fade, and factories won’t close. Pakistan has no oil. It may have huge potential for solar and wind energy, but no investment capital and knowhow to develop them.

Politically, snubbing Washington is a certified hit all across Pakistan, especially after the territorial invasion linked to the 2011 targeted assassination of Bin Laden, plus Obama and the CIA’s non-stop drone wars in the tribal areas.

Moreover, Islamabad will need close cooperation with Tehran to assert a measure of control of Afghanistan after 2014. Otherwise an India-Iran alliance will be in the driver’s seat.

Washington’s suggestion of a Plan B amounted to vague promises to help building hydroelectric dams; and yet another push for that ultimate 'Pipelineistan' desert mirage – the which has existed only on paper since the Bill Clinton era.

---

The big winner is… China

IP is already a star protagonist of the New Silk Road(s) – the real thing, not a figment of Hillary Clinton’s imagination. And then there’s the ultra-juicy, strategic Gwadar question.

Islamabad decided not only to hand over operational control of the Arabian Sea port of Gwadar, in ultra-sensitive southwest Balochistan, to China; crucially, Islamabad and Beijing also signed a deal to build a $4 billion, 400,000 barrels-a-day oil refinery, the largest in Pakistan.

Gwadar, a deepwater port, was built by China, but until recently, the port's administration was Singaporean.

The long-term Chinese master plan is a beauty. The next step after the oil refinery would be to lay out an oil pipeline from Gwadar to Xinjiang, parallel to the Karakoram highway, thus configuring Gwadar as a key Pipelineistan node distributing Persian Gulf oil and gas to Western China – and finally escaping Beijing’s Hormuz dilemma.

Gwadar, strategically located at the confluence of Southwest and South Asia, with Central Asia not that far, is bound to finally emerge as an oil and gas hub and petrochemical center – with Pakistan as a crucial energy corridor linking Iran with China. All that, of course, assuming that the CIA does not set Balochistan on fire.

The inevitable short-term result anyway is that Washington’s sanctions obsession is about to be put to rest at the bottom of the Arabian Sea, not far from Osama bin Laden’s corpse. And with IP probably becoming IPC – with the addition of China – India may even wake up, smell the gas, and try to revive the initial IPI idea....


http://rt.com/op-edge/iran-pakistan-syria-pipeline-843/
Riaz Haq said…
Here's a Financial Times report on Qatar-Pakistan LNG deal:

Electricity-starved Pakistan is close to signing a deal with Qatar worth as much as $2.5bn a year for the supply of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Gulf emirate to fuel Pakistan’s power grid, according to senior officials in Islamabad.
“This will be the last winter of discontent,” said Shahid Khaqan Abbassi, Pakistan’s petroleum minister, in a reference to the long power cuts that have for years angered Pakistani industrialists and householders. He promised a “major improvement” in gas supplies next year after particular severe shortages this winter.

Mr Abbassi is close to signing an agreement for the import of LNG from early 2015. Although the government has yet to name a supplier formally, Mr Abbassi and other officials from his ministry said that Qatar was the expected seller.
“If we can provide gas to those of our power generation plants that run on gas, [electricity cuts] will go down by half,” said Mr Abbassi. Demand for natural gas in Pakistan, a country of 180m people, is estimated at 8bn cubic feet per day, double the amount produced locally from gas fields in the south of the country.
Pakistan has also negotiated an agreement to buy gas to be piped from neighbouring Iran, but implementation of the project has been has been hampered by lack of financing and by US opposition.
Mr Abbassi expects Pakistan to buy some 3.5m tonnes of LNG a year from Qatar, meeting only part of the country’s shortfall.
Before the winter, Mr Abbassi alarmed his cabinet colleagues when he told them that for the first time in Pakistan’s history gas supply this year would not be sufficient to meet the needs of domestic consumers – even if supplies to commercial and industrial buyers were suspended.
Nawaz Sharif, prime minister, ordered Mr Abbassi to “take emergency steps” to tackle the situation, according to a senior official working with Mr Sharif. “Failure to provide gas will only enlarge the political risk [to the government],” the official said.
Growing energy shortages in recent years have prompted street demonstrations that only add to political instability in Pakistan.
Some critics have questioned Pakistan’s ability to keep up with the payments for future LNG supplies given the country’s weak finances, although the gas would partly replace oil used for power generation. “That may spare foreign exchange and allow the authorities to pay for at least part of the gas imports,” said Sakib Sherani, a former finance ministry adviser
The discussions with Qatar have deepened uncertainty over an earlier plan by Pakistan to build a pipeline to the Iranian border to import gas from Iran’s South Pars gas field. Mr Abbassi refused to comment on that project, and said only that “Pakistan will need more gas even after the LNG project. We are looking at all possible avenues.”


http://www.ft.com/intl/cms/s/0/82b74180-8c79-11e3-9b1d-00144feab7de.html
Riaz Haq said…
Stratfor's George Friedman on US role in current Middle East regional conflict:


There are two varieties of indirect warfare. The first is supporting native forces whose interests are parallel. This was done in the early stages of Afghanistan. The second is maintaining the balance of power among nations. We are seeing this form in the Middle East as the United States moves between the four major regional powers — Iran, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Turkey — supporting one then another in a perpetual balancing act. In Iraq, U.S. fighters carry out air strikes in parallel with Iranian ground forces. In Yemen, the United States supports Saudi air strikes against the Houthis, who have received Iranian training.

This is the essence of empire. The British saying is that it has no permanent friends or permanent enemies, only permanent interests. That old cliche is, like most cliches, true. The United States is in the process of learning that lesson. In many ways the United States was more charming when it had clearly identified friends and enemies. But that is a luxury that empires cannot afford.

We are now seeing the United States rebalance its strategy by learning to balance. A global power cannot afford to be directly involved in the number of conflicts that it will encounter around the world. It would be exhausted rapidly. Using various tools, it must create regional and global balances without usurping internal sovereignty. The trick is to create situations where other countries want to do what is in the U.S. interest.

This endeavor is difficult. The first step is to use economic incentives to shape other countries' behavior. It isn't the U.S. Department of Commerce but businesses that do this. The second is to provide economic aid to wavering countries. The third is to provide military aid. The fourth is to send advisers. The fifth is to send overwhelming force. The leap from the fourth level to the fifth is the hardest to master. Overwhelming force should almost never be used. But when advisers and aid do not solve a problem that must urgently be solved, then the only type of force that can be used is overwhelming force. Roman legions were used sparingly, but when they were used, they brought overwhelming power to bear.

I have been deliberately speaking of the United States as an empire, knowing that this term is jarring. Those who call the United States an empire usually mean that it is in some sense evil. Others will call it anything else if they can. But it is helpful to face the reality the United States is in. It is always useful to be honest, particularly with yourself. But more important, if the United States thinks of itself as an empire, then it will begin to learn the lessons of imperial power. Nothing is more harmful than an empire using its power carelessly.

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The current balancing act in the Middle East represents a fundamental rebalancing of American strategy. It is still clumsy and poorly thought out, but it is happening. And for the rest of the world, the idea that the Americans are coming will become more and more rare. The United States will not intervene. It will manage the situation, sometimes to the benefit of one country and sometimes to another.

https://www.stratfor.com/weekly/coming-terms-american-empire
Riaz Haq said…
Nawaz Sharif has a tough balancing act in the Iran-Saudi conflict.

Saudi Arabia hosts millions of Pakistani workers who send billions of dollars home that help Pak economy. Sharif did not decline an invite to the Riyadh conference. We know Saudis and Emiratis were very angry when Pakistan turned down participation in Yemen conflict.

Iran is a neighbor with whom Pakistan wants to maintain friendly relations. A prominent role for Nawaz Sharif at this summit would not be welcome by either Iran or others who oppose Saudis and support Iran.

I think it's going to continue to be a challenge for Pakistan to stay out of the Saudi-Iran regional conflict without upsetting either side.

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