Turkmen gas: in several steps from Europe

By Azer Ahmedbeyli

Strategic plans of the representatives of the Euro-Atlantic space "to fasten" raw material base of Central Asian countries to Europe cause negative reactions from neighbors - Russia and Iran, who consider such a scenario inconsistent with their national interests.

Last week, the French Total Company announced the discovery of large reserves of natural gas and condensate on the Absheron field in the Azerbaijani sector of the Caspian Sea.

Today it was announced that the potential reserves of this field are 350 billion cubic meters of gas and 45 million tons of condensate. The comments and expert assessments regarding this event reflect an idea that the discovery of large gas reserves on the field Absheron field can play a positive role in realization of Nabucco project.

For example, according to experts and international observers in Turkmenistan, the discovery of large gas reserves on the Absheron field could accelerate the arrival of western companies in the Caspian Sea as a whole. Total's announcement of discovering large natural gas and gas condensate at the Absheron field in Azerbaijan is great news for Total, for Azerbaijan, and for the Southern Corridor, which will help Europe to diversify its supplies of natural gas, U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza told Trend.

The subtext of various comments and statements on this issue is clear: in addition to strengthening Azerbaijan's role as a key provider for the South Corridor project, the urgency to connect Turkmenistan's gas to the project is increasing. In this regard, it would be not superfluous to note how things are going in Iraq - a country that was initially considered one of the sources of supply as part of the Nabucco project. Recently the government of Iraqi Kurdistan - semi-autonomous region in northern Iraq stopped oil exports without describing reasons. It is not secret that the regional and central government in Baghdad have sharp disagreements over the distribution of revenues from exports of hydrocarbons. Such facts do not make glad, but alarm the participants of Southern Corridor that need to guarantee security of supply.

In support of its seriousness, today the European Union has adopted a mandate to negotiate a legally binding treaty between the EU, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan to build a Trans Caspian Pipeline System. "Trans-Caspian pipeline is a major project of Southern Gas Corridor that is necessary to deliver gas from new sources in the Caspian region to Europe, said EU Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger. - We intend to achieve this as soon as possible".

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Providing mandate constitutes a milestone in the realisation of the Southern Corridor and is the first operational decision as part of a coordinated and united external energy strategy, the EU statement says. Discussions with Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan will focus on inter alia a treaty setting out legal commitments between the European Union, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, the bilateral arrangements necessary for Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to achieve the commissioning, building, and operation of the trans-Caspian pipeline itself, and the legal framework that will apply to filling the pipeline with gas from Turkmenistan, including an appropriate recognition of commercial arrangements.

Trans-Caspian gas pipeline, with a length of 300 kilometers, will be laid from the Turkmen coast of the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan, where it will be connected to the Southern Gas Corridor. Talks between Turkmenistan and the European Union and other countries on the construction of the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline have been conducted since late 1990s.

At a meeting today, Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi and Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko expressed their opposition to the construction of any gas pipeline in the Caspian Sea because of the environmental hazards, Iranian SHANA news agency reported. This is the very negative reaction, which was mentioned at the beginning, although during Russia's construction of "Blue Stream" via the Black Sea, nobody used the term "prevention".

Meanwhile, in November 2010, President Berdimuhamedov made a public statement that was firmly convinced that the consent of those countries, through whose sea sections the pipeline will pass, is sufficient for the implementation of pipeline projects via the Caspian Sea, saying that it is not necessary to wait for a final decision on the status of the Caspian by all littoral countries.

Turkmenistan also expressed its readiness to supply Nabucco project with 40 billion cubic meters of gas per year, of which 10 billion can be provided by Malaysian Petronas operating on the offshore block of Turkmenistan, and the remaining volume can be provided through the East-West gas pipeline.

Construction of only 300-kilometers export pipeline may change the entire future situation on the international oil and gas market - beginning from gas prices to creation of a precedent for the implementation of other trans-Caspian projects such as Kazakhstan-Azerbaijan oil pipeline. Having a stable and lasting source of Caspian gas supply, Europe in many ways removes the exciting issue of energy security.