Turkmenistan Asks for Help in Building East-West Pipeline
The annual Oil and Gas Turkmenistan (OGT) Conference wrapped up November 17, and as noted, it was less attended this year by contrast with last year, with about 500 delegates from energy companies and governments. No dramatic new announcements were made, although Turkmen gas officials emphasized yet again how large Turkmenistan's reserves were (estimates have been revised upwards to 71.21 billion tons of fuel); how much Ashgabat intends to diversify its delivery routes; and how it will sell gas at the border, i.e. let foreign partners concern themselves about further pipelines.
Interestingly, Turkmen ministers said they were now hoping to receive international help to build the East-West pipeline within the country, which will help boost capacity for exports to Europe, Reuters reported. When the East-West project was first envisioned two years ago, Turkmenistan announced an international tender, then revised the deadline, then unexpectedly cancelled it and said it would do the construction itself.
According to Reuters, Amanali Khanalyev, chairman of the state gas firm Turkmengaz, said the 800-kilometer East-West pipeline would enable Turkmenistan to supply 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) a year to Europe by delivering gas from the South Yolotan fields to the Caspian shore -- where it would presumably link up to an undersea route, presumably the Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP).
In an article published on the official government web site Turkmenistan Golden Age about OGT, the State News Agency of Turkmenistan (TDH) spoke of the Chinese pipeline reaching up to 40 billion cubic meters a year (previously it had been described as 30 bcm); the Russian pipeline to the north was referenced, as was the pipeline to Iran. Both the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) and Trans-Caspian Pipeline were mentioned as "projects actively being advanced." TDH said most of the interest of foreign gas and oil companies was in the Caspian Sea's hydrocarbons and South Yolotan's deposits, now estimated at 26.2 trillion bcm.
Once again, it seemed as if Turkmen officials were letting Europeans -- and Americans -- do most of the talking about their potential joint projects such as the Trans Caspian Pipeline. Turkmen statements remained at the level of generalities:
It is quite natural that the fuel and energy sector is the a foundation that qualitatively new relations between Turkmenistan and the European Union based on the goodwill, openness and mutual respect and economic benefit are built on. It was noted during the forum that the energy demand in European countries was predicted to double by 2030, and this fact stimulates their interest in the Caspian region and particularly in Turkmenistan that is viewed as one of the top gas exporting countries to the European market.
At a scientific conference following the OGT, Daniel Stein, senior adviser to the US State Department's office of the special envoy for Eurasian energy, said the US had supposed the Trans Caspian for 15 years and continued to support it.
"If Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and the EU come to an agreement about the construction of such a pipeline, there cannot be any obstacles for the construction of this pipeline, “ RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. He added that the US would continue to support Europe's drive for energy security, as Europe was the largest investment partner in the US, and would also continue to support Turkmenistan in finding new routes to market for its oil and gas reserves.
Pierre Morel, the EU's special representative to Central Asia, met with President Berdymukhamedov and held a televised news conference, where he said that for the first time in history, the EU was mandated to conclude a tripartite energy agreement with Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan.
In its wrap-up piece, TDH made up for failing to mention some of the foreign energy companies in its first article on the annual expo, noting the presence of "Chevron, Shell, ExxonMobil (US), ВР (UK), Тotal and Schlumberger (France), Itera (Russia), RWE (Germany), Eni (Italy), Petronas Charigali (Malaysia), the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), Hyundai (South Korea) and many other ‘heavyweights’ of the world oil and gas business."
Some observers noticed that in the state and foreign media coverage of OGT, Yagshigeldy Kakaev, chairman of the Presidential State Agency for Management and Use of Hydrocarbon Resources, was not mentioned. He was listed on the program to speak, but it’s not clear if he did from official accounts. Every other ministry related to energy was present at the expo, but the one actually endowed with decision-making power under the president's personal control, if present, wasn't noted. Baymyrat Hojamukhammedov, deputy chairman of the cabinet of ministers responsible for the oil and gas sector, was assigned by the president to meet with foreign gas and oil company executives.
Sign up for Eurasianet's free weekly newsletter.