Plans to build international gas distribution pipelines from the Gulf to consuming markets have still to be shown to be viable, a leading contractor said at a conference in London on 16 February.

‘If you look at the Oman-India pipeline, our view is that the project could go ahead if it is technically feasible,’ said Dennis Hallet, vice- president and regional marketing and commercial manager for the Middle East for International Bechtel of Abu Dhabi. ‘If you take the direct route (across the Gulf of Oman) you will have to have pipe two inches thick.’

‘The other question is what will happen at the other end,’ Hallet added. ‘Is there a programme in India to deliver the gas over a network?’

Hallet said that the proposed Qatar to Pakistan pipeline takes a route through shallower water, but the sea floor is subject to submarine mud- slides. ‘Something across Iran to Pakistan would be more viable,’ he added.

Prospects for a pipeline from Qatar to connect with Israel, an idea being considered for implementation following the final Arab-Israel peace settlement, are affected by the poor record of earlier energy pipelines that cross Middle East borders. Most of them are closed down, Hallet said. Pipeline projects use a lot of material and cost billions of dollars. ‘It is an incredible amount, and you wonder where the money is going to come from,’ Hallet said.

Other speakers were cautious about liquefied natural gas (LNG) transport schemes being promoted in the Middle East. ‘The opening of Mediterranean terminals taking crude out of the Gulf…is a possibility that is more realistic than LNG transportation,’ Sir Alan Munro, director of Schroder Asseily & Company, said.

Hallet was speaking at Going Global: Arabia and the Gulf, a conference organised by Ernst & Young of the UK with the co-operation of the UK’s Department of Trade & Industry and the Middle East Association. Other speakers included Michael Durham, deputy chairman of the UK’s Ewbank Preece, who said 2,700 MW of gas turbine power generation capacity in central Saudi Arabia will have to be replaced soon (see Saudi Arabia).