Iraq to Settle $5 Billion Energy Arrears With Iran? Tehran to Resume Natural Gas Exports

Iran has said it will restart gas supplies to power-starved Iraq. Tehran had cut down natural gas supplies to the neighbor over huge unpaid dues. Iran's Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said full natural gas exports to Iraq will be resumed. The massive cut in gas exports to Iraq had caused a worsening of electricity shortage in the country.

Reports had said three days earlier that Iran had slashed the amount of natural gas it exports to Iraq over unpaid bills. Iran reportedly cut supplies from 50 million cubic meters a day to only 5 million cubic meters a day. The cuts were enforced two weeks ago.

IANS reported on Wednesday that Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi met Ardakanian to apparently discuss the energy impasse. The Iranian energy minister is leading a delegation of high-ranking Iranian officials to Baghdad.

Gas field in Iran
Gas field in Iran Reuters

"Ardakanian conveyed the Iranian government's pledge to urgently resume pumping Iranian gas, which was recently slashed due to technical reasons," the statement said, the agency reported. Ardakanian also met Iraq's Minister of Electricity Majid Hantoush, Minister of Trade Alaa al-Jubouri and Iraqi Central Bank Governor Mustafa Mukheef, the report said.

Acute Power Shortage in Iraq

Meanwhile the Iraqiya TV also reported that the Iraqi and Iranian sides discussed financial cooperation, including Iraq's payment of dues for importing Iranian gas and electricity. Ardakanian's visit aimed to settle Iraq's energy debts to Iran, which have amounted to more than $5 billion for gas imports from Iran, in addition to $1 billion for electricity imports.

Due to the unpaid bills, Iran slashed its natural gas exports to Iraq from 50 million cubic metres to 5 million two weeks ago, causing an acute power shortage in Iraq, according to Iraqi Ministry of Electricity.

Iranian cuts had resulted in around 7 gigawatts drop in power production. Baghdad and other central locations were hit hardest by electricity shortages. While Iraq's supply of Iranian gas has been disrupted, its electricity imports have continued as normal, he added.

According to Reuters, Iraq's daily consumption during peak hours of winter is around 19,000 megawatts but the country produces only around 11,000 megawatts, replying on imports to fill the gap, he said.

Though Iraq has huge oil reserves the country has failed to gain self-sufficiency in energy production primarily due to the low crude prices. The United States, which grants extension to its sanctions against Iranian oil exports in order to facilitate supplies to power-starved Iraq, also insists that Baghdad must move towards power self-sufficiency.

(With Inputs from IANS)