ASHGABAT: Turkmenistan soon expects to sign a long-delayed agreement to sell natural gas to Pakistan and India and has “no doubts” that an ambitious project to build a pipeline through Afghanistan will be realised, a senior energy official said on Friday.
Oil and Gas Minister Bayramgeldy Nedirov said the proposed Turkmenistan to India pipeline, known as TAPI, would require 1 trillion cubic metres of Turkmen gas to be pumped over a 30-year period.
“Preparations are under way for the imminent signing of an agreement on the sale and purchase of natural gas,” Nedirov told an international investment forum. He did not give further details about the signing or who the counterparts would be.
Turkmenistan, a Central Asian republic sitting on the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, wants to build the pipeline as part of its plans to diversify sales from Soviet-era master Russia to energy-hungry markets in Asia and Europe.
The idea of the 1,700-km (1,056-mile) TAPI pipeline was first raised in the mid-1990s, but has never been realised. Pakistan and India, which would consume most of the gas supplied via the pipeline, have previously said they are close to signing a supply deal with Turkmenistan. Previous timeframes have passed without an agreement being struck.
The security of a route that would run through Taliban heartlands in southern Afghanistan mean security will be a major challenge to the project, which proposes annual supplies of 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of Turkmen gas.
An intergovernmental agreement signed in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat in December contained no specific provisions for security, volumes or gas prices.
The partners must also secure funding for the pipeline.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 5th, 2011.