Does Iran have ambitions to export gas as LNG? And if it does, is floating LNG the way forward?
It is a truth universally acknowledged that post-sanctions Iran is a bonanza-in-waiting, for shipping and for energy firms.
Tehran needs to tap its vast oil and gas reserves to upgrade its infrastructure. To do that, it will need new ships.
Last week, Russian president Vladimir Putin flew in to Tehran, to sign a swathe of gas agreements. Gazprom will work with National Iranian Oil Co (NIOC) to bring gas to market, some of it as LNG. It will help Iran to build a pipeline to India via Pakistan.
But Iran’s LNG plans are still a mystery. Some say Iran needs most of its gas for domestic demand, and will pipe any surplus to its neighbours. Others see LNG as the next phase of Iran’s gas ambitions – on the cards, but not yet.
However, something is stirring on Kharg Island, involving a Norwegian partner and plans for an FLNG vessel. This may – or may not – involve Exmar of Belgium.
Rumours linking Exmar-owned Caribbean FLNG to Iran will not go away – even though Exmar will not comment, and even though insiders say Iran needs a much bigger vessel.
Exmar built Caribbean FLNG for a project that Colombia cancelled last year. The barge can produce half a million tonnes of LNG a year.
NIOC and its Norwegian partner Hemla plan to build an FLNG vessel in Iran that will also produce half a million tonnes of LNG a year. Could Exmar offer Caribbean FLNG to Iran as a stop-gap?
We will have to wait and see…