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Turkmenistan and "Gasprom" are putting the Agreement on cooperation into practice

The outcome of the working visit to Turkmenistan of the Russian "Gasprom" head Alexei Miller has clearly disappointed ... some commentators who were lately expressing criticism in the Russian press about the real state of implementation by the sides of the Russian-Turkmen documents on partnership in the gas field for the next 25 years signed on April 10, 2003 in Moscow.

It seems that everything is quite clear in the aforementioned documents - the interstate agreement and the contract between "Gasprom" and "Turkmenneftegas" - both with regard to the obligations of the sides and the ways of achieving of the set tasks. Turkmenistan has to enhance its own gas production capacity and Russia has to assume the main function in modernization of existing transport routes and construction of new facilities to increase the Turkmen gas transit in the Northern direction. And this work is actually going on. "Gasprom" is studying the pipeline "Central Asia - Center" which is the main channel of gas supply from Turkmenistan to the consumers from Ukraine, Russia and Caucasus. As Alexei Miller stated in Ashgabat, a contract to conduct designing and pre-investment works could be signed by the end of August, in which different options of modernization and construction of the new gas transporting facilities for Turkmen gas deliveries to Russia would be considered and the most optimal variant be chosen.

And Mr. Miller emphasized that "the job is being done in strict compliance with the interstate Agreements on cooperation in the gas field".

Therefore having discussed with President Saparmurat Niyazov some details regarding the purchase of 5-6 bcm of gas in 2004 in Ashgabat Alexei Miller concentrated on important issues of implementation of the bilateral agreements.

According to information of Turkmenistan.ru from reliable sources Miller's counterpart urged "Gasprom" and Russia not to confine themselves to the plans of "Central Asia - Center" pipeline modernization. In Niyazov's opinion Moscow should join the project of the Caspian coastal pipeline construction that the Turkmen and Ukrainian specialists have started to work on.

The length of the planned pipeline, 1420 millimeters in diameter and with 30 bcm capacity, is 1745 km., running 605 km in the Turkmen territory and 1140 in the Kazakh territory. It will start from Deryalyk working compressor station and run through the Turkmen territory to Bekdash compressor station in the North-West of Turkmenistan. It then runs through the Kazakh territory and has to be extended to Alexandrov Gai (Russia) compressor station. The natural gas is to be sold at the Turkmenistan-Kazakhstan border.

Construction of the Turkmen stretch of pipeline will be financed only by the Turkmen side, they say in the Government. Laying down of the next part has to be carried out by the buyers of Turkmen gas - "Neftegas Ukraini" and "Gasprom" companies. The latter will also act as operator for transporting the Turkmen natural gas to the foreign markets.

The project has to be implemented by 2007 starting from which the total amount of the Turkmen natural gas deliveries will be 60-80 bcm.

According to information from our sources, Alexei Miller has not given unambiguous answer yet as regards to what extent "Gasprom" would be involved in this project. However, he fully agreed that there was a need to find the most optimal option of creating new possibilities for increasing Turkmen gas supply in the Northern direction.

It is quite possible that the situation around laying down of a new "pipe" will be cleared during CIS summit in Yalta in the end of September where this issue is expected to be discussed at the meeting of the Russian, Ukrainian and Turkmen Presidents. As of today one can conclude that Russia and Turkmenistan have got down to actual implementation of the really historical documents signed April 10 in Moscow. What is important is that the process is under way and the sides, as it appears, are trying to avoid political jabber that usually follows such major projects. The main thing for them is a specific result promising big benefits for both Turkmenistan and Russia as the main players in the CIS gas market and for Ukraine as a major consumer of Turkmen gas, as well as Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan as the states profiting from the transit of gas through their territories.

Igor Solovyov

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