Iran’s natural gas exports to Turkey have stopped following an explosion on a pipeline near their joint border, an official at the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) said on Tuesday.
“The explosion occurred near the Iranian border, causing gas to be halted from 6:50 (0320 GMT) this morning,” Mehdi Jamshidi-Dana said, Press TV reported.
The cause of the explosion is not known yet, but Kurdish militants who are at war with the Turkish state in the southeast have blown up the pipeline in the past.
The Turkish side, the Iranian official said, has been informed of the explosion but it has not responded to the incident yet. “We are waiting for their response,” he said.
According to Jamshidi-Dana, Turkey’s representative at Bazargan gas transmission station has left his post due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus.
The official said that “all necessary efforts” were underway to manage the situation, but that currently, it was unclear when the line would reopen.
“Experience has shown that repairing the lines takes three to seven days, depending on the amount of damage done,” he said.
Turkey’s state news agency Anadolu said the explosion occurred near the Gurbulak border gate with Iran in Agri province.
Turkish broadcaster TRT Haber also said the cause of the explosion was unknown.
“The gas flow on the natural gas pipeline was cut and the fire that had started was extinguished by fire squads,” it said. The report added that security forces are investigating the incident.
Most recently the line was closed following an attack by PKK militants in July 2015, while a subsequent attack on the line in April 2018 was foiled by Turkish security forces.
The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union. Some 40,000 people have been killed in the fight between Turkish forces and the militants since the 1980s.
Iran is Turkey’s second-biggest supplier of natural gas after Russia. Tehran sells about 10 billion cubic meters a year of gas under a 25-year supply deal to Turkey which it uses for electricity generation.
The gas exports are carried out via a 2,577 km (1,601 miles) pipeline running from Tabriz to Ankara.
Turkey imported 7.7 billion cubic meters of gas from Iran in 2019, or some 17% of its total gas imports.
Ankara is almost 100-percent dependent on fuel imports, with natural gas accounting for nearly 40 percent of the country’s electricity production.
After the United States unleashed its most draconian sanctions on Iran in November 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made it clear that Turkey would continue to buy natural gas from the Islamic Republic.
According to NIGC Managing Director Hassan Montazer Torbati, Turkey has requested to purchase more Iranian natural gas.