EghtesadOnline: Iran holds the world's second biggest natural gas reserves after Russia.
Gas production has surpassed 870 million cubic meters per day and a large number of city and village dwellers are supplied with the fuel which has affected people’s well-being positively to some extent, according to Financial Tribune.
Officials often proudly trumpet their success in expanding the natural gas network (including in far-flung villages) over the past four decades. However, the long-term effects of what they claim to be a blessing is not very clear as it can be a curse as well.
One question academics and energy experts have raised is, “Was it really necessary to invest billions of dollars to lay huge pipelines and supply 80 million people with gas so that they could heat up their homes when there were other viable options?”
Why do Russia, the US and Norway, which have also massive gas reserves, rely on other sources like power and do not provide their people with gas for heating purposes?
Shouldn’t the same policy have been adopted in Iran?
According to Mahmoud Reza Haqifam, a deputy at the Iran Power Generation, Distribution and Transmission Company (Tavanir), who also is a university lecturer, extending both gas and power grids was a wrong policy for several reasons.
Firstly, the budget used for stretching the network to each and every household could have been allocated to construct new power stations and develop the transmission and distribution lines.
Officials like Haqifam believe that investing on electricity and converting it to power (in thermal or combined-cycle power plants) is more beneficial than supplying households with gas directly.
Referring to safety issues, it is said that if an earthquake strikes in mega cities like Tehran, Mashhad and Isfahan, the number of people who will be killed by gas explosion would outnumber those who will lose their life because of the disaster itself.
In the case of an earthquake (highly likely in Iran), every gas meter will function like a detonator to blow up entire buildings. In other words, officials have equipped people’s houses with potential dynamite that will explode as soon as an earthquake occurs.
Moreover, gas is a kind of fossil fuel and burning it emits greenhouse gases namely CO2 that is harmful for the environment.
What is more regrettable in Iran is that during winter when home gas consumption soars, petrochemical companies, industries and power plants are forced to use mazut whose ecological effects is much more destructive.
A Reliable Source
From an economic point of view, it is argued that compared to gas, electricity is a more reliable source as power grids can be expanded faster and at the same time make economic sense.
Gas consumption in Iran has surpassed 600 mcm/d and informed sources say the valuable source could have been managed better if it was delivered to thermal power plants and industries (that produce value-added goods) instead of households that anyway do not consume energy prudently.
Some simply do not care about wasting energy because they assume it is available in abundance while others live in poorly-insulated homes in which energy goes to waste very easily.
Furthermore, developing power infrastructure (power stations, substations and transmission lines) also helps save water. In Iran during hot summer days most families turn on water-based cooling systems (evaporative coolers) that use huge amounts of water that can be saved if enough power is generated and subscribers are encouraged to use air conditioners (ACs).
It is noteworthy that countries like Russia, Denmark and Sweden provide at least 50% of their people with centralized district heating (teleheating).
Teleheating is a system for distributing heat generated in a centralized location through a system of insulated pipes for residential and commercial heating requirements such as space heating and water heating.
The heat is often obtained from a cogeneration plant burning fossil fuels or biomass, but heat-only boiler stations, geothermal heating, heat pumps and central solar heating are also used, as well as heat waste from nuclear power electricity generation.
District heating plants can provide higher efficiencies than localized boilers which are commonly used in Iran.
Norway, one of the coldest European states with massive fossil fuel resources, exports 94% of its natural gas and 80% of Norwegians either use power or teleheating to keep their houses warm.
In Japan, one of the biggest importers of LNG, people use kerosene and electricity to heat up their accommodation and 92% of the imported liquefied fuel is given to power stations to generate electricity.
They also use ‘korsi’, a low table with a brazier of hot coals or an electric heater, a system that was used in Iran in the past, but was forgotten as soon as piped gas arrived.