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As the secretary-general of Opec flew into Moscow yesterday to talk about oil, Alexei Miller, the chairman of Gazprom, was jetting out of Tehran after concluding talks about gas with Iran and Qatar.

We need not worry that Russia is about to join the oily club. Today's visit by Abdullah al-Badri is a formality, but the talk of a gas cartel is a different matter. A combination of leading gas exporters, no matter how tentative, could pose a serious economic threat to Europe. We should first discount the hoopla from Gholam Hossein Nozari, the Iranian Oil Minister, who proclaimed yesterday that the talks between Russia, Iran and Qatar had reached “a consensus to set up a gas Opec”.

No such thing is likely - we can forget any notion of horse-trading gas production quotas — but what we can expect, and what we ought to fear, is the exchange of information about prices, development schedules and investment plans. Mr Miller said as much: “We have agreed to hold regular — three or four times per year — meetings of the 'big gas troika' to discuss key issues of gas market developments.”

If European steel, cement or chemical companies exchanged such information, they could expect colossal fines and the imprisonment of their directors. The point is that the information is vital for a nascent industry that is constantly in fear of price wars and market collapses.

Russia, Iran and Qatar are the world's top dogs in gas, accounting for 56 per cent of the world's known reserves, according to the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2008. Russia is already the world's leading exporter, but Qatar is in the throes of development and Iran has barely tapped its potential. So chaotic is the Islamic Republic's energy infrastructure, and so hamstrung by American sanctions, it is forced to import gas from Turkmenistan.

see more here: http://business.timesonline.co.uk/tol/business/columnists/article4988242.ece
Nick: JirkaPraha, 23.10.2008 09:04:19
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