Usage of highly polluting diesel and mazut fuels in power plants jumped in Iran in 2021 on top of increases in previous years, a BP report shows.

Iranian government entities have stopped publishing information on fuel use for power generation, but the latest report from the Parliament Research Center in 2020 indicted that the use of mazut had reached 6 billion liters (around 1.6 billion gallons), or 62 percent higher than in 2017.

Mazut is a heavy, dirty fuel which is banned in most countries unless it is blended with less polluting fuels, but in Iran it is used regularly as its export market is limited.

The same report indicated that power plants in 2020 used 11 billion liters of diesel, or more than double than in 2017. In the 2020-2021 winter daily natural gas shortage reached 170 cubic meters and that led to higher usage of polluting fuels.

From 2021, all government and industry sources in Iran stopped publishing figures about usage of dirty fuels in power pants, but scattered media reports indicated that natural gas shortages had started before the winter of 2021-2022, but in the cold months it reached the unprecedented deficit of 250 million cubic meters per day.

In fact, Mehr news agency in Tehran reported in late February that Iran had again become a net diesel importer for the first time since 2014, most likely because of high diesel usage for power generation.

The chronic shortage of natural gas is noteworthy in the context of recent talk about Iran possibly supplying the much-needed fuel to Europe in the aftermath of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

In fact, Iran needs around $50 billion in investments to increase its natural gas production, although it has the world’s second largest reserves. At the time being, United States sanctions, as well as general investment risk factors make any infusion of capital and technology highly problematic, but even in the absence of such impediments, it would take years before the country can produce enough for significant exports.

Figures in the BP report show that in 2020 Iran produced 37 terawatts of its electricity from dirty fuels, but in 2021 it reached 49 terawatts. As a result, Iran’s greenhouse gas emissions reached the historic level of 893 million tons, an increase of 4.5 percent over 2020.

Iran is the sixth highest greenhouse gas contributor in the world, afterChina, the United States, India, Japan and Russia. Germany, with an 18-times bigger economy produces 28 percent less air pollution.

The BP report also indicates Iran’s nuclear electricity generation fell by 44 percent to 2.7 terawatts, and hydroelectric power generation decreased by 36 percent, due to drought.

Iran has also lagged in solar and wind energy generation. Last year it produced a combined total of 1.8-terawatt electricity from these renewables while neighboring Turkey generated 35 times more.

Nuclear, solar, and wind electricity generation constituted just over one percent of Iran’s 358 terawatts of electricity generation in 2021.

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