Iran looks to join Nabucco axis

Iran says it will supply half the capacity for the Nabucco international gas pipeline. It will invite foreign firms to overhaul its decrepit gas infrastructure, but Nabucco's key shareholder says that will not be enough.

Two years ago, Nabucco developer OMV said it would make "no sense" not to source from Iran. But Tehran's failure to engage with the project has shifted focus to the likes of Azerbaijan, and Iraq. Until now.

At the World Gas Conference in Argentina, the state's energy holding pledged to pump $5 billion in the next 5 years to bring its network to world standards. Azizollah Ramazani, Managing Director of the National Iranian Gas Company, says a key focus is Nabucco.

“The countries supplying natural gas for Nabucco don't have enough. We can get more than a 50% share. For this expansion, we need to have new gas refineries, and the new construction of pipelines.”

But Nabucco already wants to be in action by then. OMV says Iran could join from the second stage, in 2017. That will require more fundamental changes, according to Roland Wolk, Head of Communications at OMV..

“Nabucco is an open pipeline for all who want to supply. In a further stage, regarding Iran, where the political situation is changing in the next years, it could be an option.”

Nabucco's named after the opera where slaves break free from Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. The route bypasses Russia and is supposed to symbolise Europe ending dependence on Gazprom. But it's now starting to ring true, in more ways than one.

An opera house in the Argentine capital, where leading gas players have been meeting this week, is famed for its performance of the Verdi creation. What Nabucco shareholders never imagined is that the search for a supplier would become as long, and tortuous, as the piece itself.