It has been a chastening few months for gas-rich Turkmenistan. Two long-standing energy buyers have indicated they will stop purchasing the country’s natural gas, potentially leaving Ashgabat dependent on Chinese demand.
An ambitious pipeline to India and Pakistan via Afghanistan – dubbed TAPI – could offset Ashgabat’s looming dependence on Beijing. But despite some noise in recent months, the export route looks no more feasible now than it was when first proposed in the 1990s, experts say.
Turkmenistan has the fourth-largest gas reserves in the world. But inadequate pipeline infrastructure limits the landlocked country’s export ability. Only the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline, built by the China National Petroleum Corporation in stages since 2009 and projected to transport 55 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas east annually by the end of 2015, links Turkmenistan to a market with real potential.
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Chris Rickleton is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.