Acceleration plan approved to lay TAPI pipeline by 2019

Steering committee approves a new plan proposed by Pakistan

Zafar Bhutta May 01, 2018
Turkmenistan plans to hold roadshows to raise more funds. PHOTO: FILE

ISLAMABAD: Countries that are part of the $10-billion Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline project have approved an acceleration plan in a bid to cut the time required for constructing the pipeline and make it ready before the deadline, disclosed an official.

The targeted time for completing the project was 2020, but now under the acceleration plan, the participating countries will be able to lay the transnational pipeline next year.

“Steering committee of the Tapi pipeline project has approved a plan in this regard,” the official said.

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According to him, Pakistan had proposed a new plan for executing the project in the shortest possible time, which was approved by the steering committee. Under the plan, the pipeline will be laid without installation of compressors in the first phase.

Turkmenistan will pump gas into the pipeline without compressors. The pipeline’s diametre will be 56 inches, therefore, only one-third of gas flow will be possible during that phase.

The official revealed that the pipeline had been divided into nine lots and successful companies from the bidding process would be asked to work on different lots to implement the project as quickly as possible.

Pakistan is currently importing liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar and Italy and is in talks with other countries to sign more government-to-government supply deals.

Despite LNG deals, Pakistan needs more gas to meet needs of the industry. Seeing the growing appetite, different countries like Iran, Turkmenistan and Russia are vying to build pipelines for gas supply to Pakistan.

Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline project had been conceived long ago, but it could not be implemented due to international sanctions on Tehran.

Russia has also planned to build an offshore gas pipeline from Iran to India via Pakistan. Russia has shareholdings in oil and gas fields across Iran and has been pressing Pakistan to sign a government-to-government deal for the offshore gas pipeline.

The United States, on the other hand, has lent support to the Tapi pipeline, which will meet energy needs of Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, instead of Iran-Pakistan pipeline as it has tense relations with Tehran for decades.

“This (Tapi) is a regional energy infrastructure project and will help ease tensions between neighbouring countries due to dependence on each other,” the official remarked.

Turkmenistan has huge natural gas reserves and a major chunk goes to Russia that supplies it onwards to Europe. Turkmenistan has also been providing gas for Iran and its new markets will be Afghanistan, Pakistan and India.

Turkmenistan will bear 85% of the Tapi pipeline cost estimated at $10 billion, whereas Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will have shares of 5% each.

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The cost is in addition to the capital injection of $15 billion required for developing the gas field from where Turkmenistan will transmit energy to the three countries.

A gas sale and purchase agreement had already been signed between all sides in 2013 to establish the pricing mechanism under which gas price at Turkmenistan’s border would be around 20% cheaper than the price of Brent crude oil.

Pakistan and India will each receive 1.325 billion cubic feet of gas per day while Afghanistan will receive 500 million cubic feet per day.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2018.

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