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16.06.04á13:06

BOTH RUSSIA AND UKRAINE WILL GET EQUAL SHARES...
TURKMENISTAN TO BOOST ITS GAS EXPORT POTENTIAL

President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov has recently stated that the republic will export up to 100 bcm of natural gas in the northern direction in virtually 3-4 years. Thus, the Turkmen leader gave an unequivocal answer to skeptics that doubt Ashgabat's capability to simultaneously develop its partnership with Moscow and Kiev.

It should be recalled that there are currently two agreements on Turkmen gas purchases - with Ukraine on the annual purchase of up to 50 bcm of gas until 2007 (though, so far Kiev has done with 36 bcm of gas) and with Russia on the purchase of gas originating from the Karakum desert in 2004-2028. At the same time, the amount of gas supplies to Russian Gasprom will be relatively small until the existing contract with Ukraine expires. The reason for that is, in the first place, a lack of gas transportation facilities from Turkmenistan to the north. For example, Gasprom will purchase 5-6 bcm of gas this year, and no more than 10 bcm in 2005-2006. However, after the expiration of the existing contract with Kiev Russia will raise gas purchases to 70 bcm.

If to accede to certain so called geopolitical commentators and look into the matter from purely arithmetical point of view, one can jump to a conclusion that starting 2007 Ukraine may lost Turkmen gas that today plays, without exaggerating, a key role in ensuring energy security of the country. It is not a secret for anyone that Turkmen gas, being purchased on pretty good terms (50% to be paid with currency, 50% - with goods and services), firstly, helps diversify the supply of energy resources to Ukraine, secondly, enables Kiev to shore up its stance in its dialog with Moscow on the issue of Russian fuel transit to Europe and, thirdly, brings cash to the budget from gas surpluses reselling to European neighbors. In view of this fact, persistence with which the Ukrainian leadership has been pushing Ashgabat towards signing a new, longer contract on cooperation in the gas field becomes understandable. Kiev is eager to sign a 25-year contract with Turkmenistan, similar to the Russian-Turkmen one. It is not accidentally that there sometimes appears information on the expected visit by Leonid Kuchma to the Turkmen capital. As for Ashgabat, it sends clear signals that it is not going to push things hard. There are several reasons for that. On the one hand, Turkmenbashi would have likely preferred to sign such a large-scale document not with the outgoing president but with the one that the people of Ukraine will elect this fall. On the other hand, one has to be realistic and work out draft projects on drastically increasing the throughput of the northern "pipeline" before concluding such an agreement. And Ashgabat has a specific proposal leading to resolution of the situation - to build a new, powerful pipeline along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea to transport fuel from the Karakum desert to Russia and further to Ukraine and Europe.

As for Ukrainians, they considered this variant feasible and have prepared by now a feasibility study of the future gas pipeline, which is, by the way, could be built on the basis of the existing pipeline, which has a low capacity (up to 5 bcm), Turkmenistan (Deryalyk) - Europe. Moscow, in the person of Gasprom's leadership, believes that it would be more economic to reconstruct the gas transportation corridor Central Asia - Center. Such an approach is quite understandable in view of Gasprom's own long-term interest in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan through which territories Turkmen gas is transported to Russia today. As was reported earlier, the Russian gas monopolist approved an investment program on increasing the throughput of this pipeline.

Ashgabat, in turn, has repeatedly stated Turkmenistan's readiness to build that part of the new pipeline that would run through its territory as well as carry out all necessary preliminary work on the enhancement of its export potential. The next step in this direction was the launch of a modern gas dehydration unit at the main export pipeline Central Asia - Center worth over $23 mln, built in 15 months by a consortium of German Pall GmbH, Swiss Zultser Chemteh and Belgium Eneks Process Engineering S.A. Technologies of leading companies in this field were used there. The unit is equipped with systems of automatic control and process monitoring as well as monitoring devices made by the U.S. General Electric and Honey well and German KSR Kubler. The unit's refining capacity is 75 bcm per year.

It is necessary to note that within the framework of a project on Turkmenistan's gas infrastructure development that started in 1997 there has been carried out reconstruction of a telemechanics system (SCADA) of the main gas pipeline Dowletabat - Deryalyk, established a self-financing measuring unit at the Deryalyk compressor station. A unit on gas preparation and compression at Dowletabat-Domnez field was launched in 2002. It can be said that exactly from this moment the gas transportation infrastructure of Turkmenistan meets the world standards.

Two more large projects are yet to be implemented by the end of this year. Reconstruction of the largest compressor stations, Deryalyk and Ilyaly, designed to ensure high pressure in the gas export main and worth over $180 mln, entered the final stage. Over $50 mln was also allocated this year for the implementation of projects on the construction of passages of the Dowletabat - Deryalyk and Naip - Deryalyk gas pipelines' system through the Dostluk (Friendship) collector and construction of a passage of the Dowletabat - Deryalyk gas pipelines' system through the Deryalyk collector (50 km from Dostluk).

So, Turkmenistan already has a potential that will ensure fulfillment of its obligations on natural gas supplies both to Russia, under the 25-year contract, and Ukraine. It is now up to Turkmen gas workers' partners to decide.

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Victor PLETNEV

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