Efforts gain pace to get Turkmen gas to Turkey, onward to Europe (Report)

23 March, 2024
Source: Daily Sabah

As efforts to deliver Turkmenistan's gas to Turkey via Azerbaijan and onward to Europe are gaining momentum, the initial phase envisages a flow of 2 billion cubic meters (bcm) through swap arrangements.

The plan highlights the intensification of energy diplomacy between Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, especially after the gas crisis in Europe after Russia launched its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022.

Earlier this month, Ankara and Ashgabat signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a letter of intent on natural gas cooperation, laying the groundwork for partnerships in the hydrocarbon sector and taking Turkey closer to becoming a major energy hub.

Energy and Natural Resources Minister Alparslan Bayraktar said the aim was to get Turkmen gas first to Turkey and then to global markets. He outlined that up to 2 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas could be initially transported to Turkey.

Turkey is currently importing gas from Russia, Azerbaijan, and Iran via pipelines and liquefied natural gas (LNG) from several other countries. It recently signed deals with several European countries for energy exports and launched gas production from its offshore field in the Black Sea.

Bayraktar noted three options for delivering Turkmen gas, including via swap arrangements through Iran.

"Another is for Turkmen gas to come to Turkey through Iran and Azerbaijan again via swap, and another, essentially more long-term, sustainable, and with greater capacity, is for Turkmen gas to reach Turkey via a pipeline crossing the Caspian Sea," said the minister.

"All of these are on the table, all of these are the topics we are discussing."

Ay┼čegül Ketenci, an assistant professor at Istanbul Kültür University, emphasized the importance of infrastructure development and tangible steps in addition to goodwill declarations.

The MoU is "certainly a very important development," according to Ketenci, "but infrastructure work needs to be carried out in the region, and concrete steps need to be taken."

She highlighted the significance of gas not only for Turkmenistan but also for the broader Turkic world, stressing the need for multidimensional cooperation at regional and global levels.

"Energy is an important component of Azerbaijan's economic development, and this situation is also valid for Turkmenistan and other countries. Therefore, multidimensional cooperation should be developed at regional and global levels," she noted.

Regarding transporting up to 2 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas to Turkey, Ketenci stated, "We can say that efforts are intensifying to take concrete steps in this regard."

She emphasized the importance of adequately considering different alternatives regarding gas shipment and formulating appropriate policies, expressing confidence in the Azerbaijan-Caspian route despite the longer-term nature of infrastructure development.

"I believe the most suitable alternative for the arrival of Turkmen gas is connected to the Azerbaijan-Caspian route. This pipeline is critically important for the development of the Turkic world and is a secure route," Ketenci noted.

She also underscored the importance of Turkey developing multidimensional partnerships to ensure its energy security, advocating for policies based on sustainability and scientific evidence.

"Turkey needs to engage with all strong energy players such as Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan and prioritize energy security, consider power balances, and formulate sustainable and scientifically-based policies, which will benefit all regional actors," Ketenci said.

Among world's largest reserves

According to the "2050 Outlook" report of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF), Turkmenistan ranks fourth in the world with 13.9 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves.

The Central Asian nation ramped up its annual gas production from 40 billion cubic meters in 2010 to 63.2 billion cubic meters in 2019. The output reached 66 bcm in 2020, 79.3 bcm in 2021, 78.3 bcm in 2022, and 80.6 bcm in 2023.

According to the GECF report, Turkmenistan is expected to increase its annual gas production to 110 billion cubic meters by 2050.

Approximately half of Turkmenistan's gas output is exported, with significant volumes going to China and smaller amounts to Russia, Uzbekistan, and Iran via Azerbaijan. The delivery of around 40 bcm of gas makes Turkmenistan China's largest gas supplier.

The estimated gas reserves of the country are calculated to be more than 50 trillion cubic meters.

Alternative projects

Turkmenistan is striving to increase gas exports through pipelines and is also working on alternative projects.

The four-stage Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline, which delivers Turkmen gas to China via Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, became operational in 2009. Currently, stages A, B and C are active, allowing an annual capacity of 55 billion cubic meters of gas to reach China.

The final stage, with a capacity of 35 billion cubic meters, is expected to become operational by the 2030s, aiming to increase the pipeline's total capacity by 30 billion cubic meters.

Alternative projects include the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) Natural Gas Pipeline, aiming to transport 33 billion cubic meters annually to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. The construction of the pipeline that spans 1,814 kilometers (1,127.17 miles) is in the final stage.

As part of other ongoing efforts to increase production and exports, Turkmenistan signed a five-year agreement with Russia in 2019 to sell 5.5 billion cubic meters of gas annually. Under a swap agreement made in 2021, approximately 2 billion cubic meters of gas are sold annually to Azerbaijan via Iran. Azerbaijan's gas imports from Turkmenistan amounted to 1.5 billion cubic meters last year.


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