By Chris Bowers, British Consul General in Erbil. This article was originally published by Rudaw, and is re-published with permission by Iraq Business News.
Let me start by asking a question: why is gas less talked about than oil in Iraq? I am not sure why this is the case but it does seem to be true. In fact, the development of Kurdistan’s huge gas reserves is vital to energy security in Kurdistan, Iraq, the region and beyond. I am proud to say that UK energy companies are playing an important role in this.
Kurdistan is blessed twofold on gas: firstly on reserves, and secondly in its proximity to growing markets for that gas; markets that won’t wait. There is a growing and urgent demand for gas-powered electricity in Kurdistan’s neighbouring provinces. Iraqi gas should, of course, first be used to satisfy domestic demand and is great to see KRG reaching out to neighbouring provinces. This is an excellent example of Kurdish and Arab interests coinciding exactly and to the benefit of everyone.
Once domestic demand is sated, the second and growing market is Turkey. Turkey’s booming economy needs a significant amount of extra power every year. Naturally, much of that can be fuelled by Iraqi gas from Kurdistan.
Cementing the recent progress on Turkey-Kurdistan relations through deepened energy co-operation makes obvious strategic and more importantly economic and business sense. Turkey is a great market for Kurdistan and Europe as a whole has an interest in Turkey sustaining its strong economic growth.
But, Europe also has a broad interest in Iraqi gas from Kurdistan. There is a gas shortage in Europe and the gap between supply and demand is likely to increase in the long run. Gas is better for the climate than coal, is less costly initially than most forms of renewable energy and less controversial than nuclear.