A senior Turkmen official again this week dangled the prospect of his country exporting its gas directly to European markets via a Trans-Caspian pipeline, but with a lack of enthusiasm that should probably worry Brussels. Speaking at the Abu Dhabi International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, or ADIPEC, Shahym Abdrahmanov, the deputy prime minister in charge of the oil and gas portfolio, said the idea of building the TPC “is not removed from the agenda”.
The Europeans must line up.
“Turkmenistan supplies energy through large export pipelines to the north, i.e. Russia, to the east, i.e. China, as well as the Iran. And now we are building the TAPI gas pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). The implementation of TAPI will relieve pressure from Asian markets and the released volumes can be redirected to the European market,” Abdrahmanov said. cited as the Russian news agency RIA-Novosti said.
Another priority, the Turkmen deputy prime minister said, was the development of national energy infrastructure, such as the 800-kilometer East-West gas pipeline linking all gas fields in the country which is currently under construction.
There were more encouraging sounds last week from Batyr Amanov, chairman of state-owned gas company Turkmengaz, who spoke of hopes of exporting to Europe.
“Turkmenistan is a reliable gas exporter and a key player in the global energy scene, and it has great prospects for delivering natural gas to Europe,” he said. said on October 26 at an oil and gas conference in Ashgabat. The remarks were particularly evasive, however.
In somewhat unexpected developments, Turkmenistan is coming to discover that it has gas customers, albeit buying modest volumes, among its immediate neighbours. While visiting Ashgabat last month, Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev intimidated that he would like to start importing Turkmen gas. Kazakhstan’s President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said earlier in October, when Turkmen President Serdar Berdymukhamedov was visiting him in Astana, that his country wanted reach a long-term agreement import 1.5 billion cubic meters of gas per year from Turkmenistan.
Taalaibek Ibrayev, Kyrgyz Minister of Energy said on October 26 that his government was in talks with Turkmenistan to buy 350 billion cubic meters of gas and 2 billion kilowatt hours of electricity in addition.
“My first deputy is now in Ashgabat to negotiate a price [for the gas]Ibrayev told parliament.
It’s more than a little confusing since Ibrayev revealed in April that a deal reached in June 2021 for Kyrgyzstan to import 270 million cubic meters of gas from Turkmenistan had failed because it had proven “economically unprofitable”. It is possible that something similar to what happened last time will happen again now: that the gas will be passed on to Uzbekistan, which will then reward Kyrgyzstan with a financially equivalent amount of electricity, which is anyway what worries Bishkek the most. But that’s pure speculation.
In even more energy trading, Berdymukhamedov on October 28 sign a decree authorizing the increase of electricity supply to Uzbekistan. No volume or money figure was mentioned in Turkmen state media, but a spokesman for the Uzbek president said last month that Tashkent was seeking to buy 4 billion kilowatt hours of electricity from Turkmenistan.
Afghanistan and Iran are the other countries currently buying electricity from Turkmenistan.
Even though the issue of the Trans-Caspian pipeline may be somewhat dormant, that does not mean that there is no activity around the energy potential of the sea. Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are would have actively in talks about involving Russian energy major LUKoil in their joint exploration of an undersea hydrocarbon field that was once a source of contention between them.
This marked a major breakthrough of sorts in early 2021 when Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan finally, after decades of low-level hostility, set aside their exclusive claims in the field known as Dostluk or Dostlug (Friendship) and decided to do it together.
Speaking at the Eurasian Economic Forum in Verona on Oct. 28, Azerbaijani Deputy Energy Minister Elnur Soltanov signaled that LUKoil may indeed end up taking the lead in developing the field.
“We know their intention (of LUKoil) to participate, we understand it and discuss it with our Turkmen colleagues. I don’t think there are any objections,” Soltanov said.
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Azerbaijan is also preparing for closer cooperation with Turkmenistan in other ways. Russian press briefing Voice of the CIS reported on October 27, the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR is about to open premises in Ashgabat. This news was announced by Emin Alekperov, the deputy head of the science and technology department of SOCAR, who offered an intriguing response when asked by the Voice of the CIS about the prospects for a Trans-Caspian pipeline. Azerbaijan’s offshore oil and gas fields are connected to the coast by pipelines, as are those in Turkmenistan, he said.
“Using a business approach, they can be combined, which does not require significant hardware resources,” said Alekperov, describing a vision that aligns with one that has been lobbied most recently by the Florida startup Trans Caspian Resources.
If a way were to be found to transport Turkmen gas across the Caspian, Georgia would also want to participate. In his speech at the Oil and Gas Conference in Ashgabat, Giorgi Chikovani, General Manager of the Georgian Oil and Gas Corporation, said that his country eventually wanted to buy Turkmen fuel. Achieving this, he said, will require “a broader dialogue between the European Union, the governments of the South Caucasus and Central Asia, and industry”.
Berdymukhamedov’s father, Gurbanguly, a former president and current Senate speaker, continues his leadership role by spearheading what is dubbed local government optimization. A recent joint session of the two chambers of parliament produced a resolution to rename a number of towns and villages across the country. They will no longer bear the name of Turkmenistan’s first post-independence autocrat, Saparmurat Niyazov, and his mother, Gurbansoltan eje. State media insists the move responds to calls from the public, although it is more likely that Berdymukhamedov the eldest only wants to entertain the cult of personality that has been installed in his own honour.
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