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    Central Asia
     Jun 15, 2012


China lifts Turkmen gas sales
By Robert M Cutler

MONTREAL - Turkmenistan and China have signed a deal making good on Turkmenistan President Gurbanbuly Berdimuhamedow's earlier promise to increase his country's natural gas shipments to China to 65 billion cubic meters per year (bcm/y).

The new agreement was signed formally between the two states' respective state companies Turkmengaz and China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC). The new quantity is more than double the 30 bcm/y originally envisioned at the start of the project in 2007, and more than half again as much as the 40 bcm/y that had been agreed in 2008 as an increased level.

The announcement represents yet another blow against Russia's hopes to export up to 68 bcm/y of Siberian gas to China. Russia's President Vladimir Putin left Beijing last week after a series of bilateral meetings in the margin of a Shanghai Cooperation

 

Organization summit with no price agreement over the deal. The original memorandum of understanding between Gazprom and CNPC was signed back in 2004, but since then China has diversified its sources of gas imports.

The announcement that Turkmenistan will increase still further its sales to China comes days after CNPC, which built and operates the 1,830-kilometer gas pipeline that also passes through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into Xinjiang in western China, announced that it had received 30 bcm from Turkmenistan since the pipeline began pumping at the end of 2009.

Of that quantity, Turkmengaz has supplied nearly two-thirds, and CNPC's subsidiary in the country has supplied the rest. Slightly over half of the 30 bcm were delivered in 2011, triple the level from 2010 as volumes began to ramp up according to design.

A little over one-third of the total has come from the previously operating Samantepe and Altyn Asyr fields in the Bagtyyarlyk cluster, where CNPC is jointly developing new fields with Turkmengaz. Chinese engineers estimate that the whole cluster holds a total of 1.6 trillion cubic meters of gas. The report that 10.7 bcm/y came from Samantepe and Altyn Asyr last year means that the first phase of the development schedule has been reached.

Those two fields were at the start projected to furnish 13 bcm/y of the original 30 bcm/y contract. The remaining 17 bcm/y would come from other fields in the Bagtyyarlyk cluster that are subject to the Chinese-Turkmenistani production sharing agreement signed in July 2007. During the current calendar year, CNPC is seeking to increase its imports of gas from Turkmenistani sources to 24.1 bcm.

The balance of this quantity not sourced from Turkmenistan will come from Uzbekistan, which this year will join Turkmenistan as an exporter through the Turkmenistan-China pipeline. Kazakhstan is also in the queue to join the list, but for the moment South Kazakhstan province is, through a pipeline from the northwest of the country constructed with Chinese assistance, consuming gas along the route that will later open to China as volumes of throughput ramps up.

Turkmenistan's new deal with China comes on top of the pricing and supply agreements signed last month among partners in the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural gas pipeline project, a US$7.6 billion plan that is being supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB). The 33 bcm/y of gas for this pipeline is planned to come from the Galkynysh field, previously known as Yolotan, one of the world's biggest.

Last week, numerous reports asserted that Bangladesh has now expressed an interest in joining the TAPI project and has asked the ADB to help it find a way. Adding Bangladesh to the pipeline would mean lengthening the planned 1,700-km pipeline by an additional 708 km to join up with the country's national distribution network.

Bangladesh faces a potential gas shortage in the wake of the failure several years ago to resolve a dispute with India and Myanmar over maritime boundaries in the Bay of Bengal (the latter was resolved earlier this year), but at the same time the ADB evaluates the country's degree of dependence on natural gas as an actual threat to energy security.

The development of Turkmenistan's gas resources in its offshore Caspian Sea sector meanwhile continues apace as the Malaysian company Bumi Armada reported that it won a contact to lay pipelines off the country's coast, signing an agreement with Momentum Engineering Turkmenistan, headquartered in Dubai. The company claims to have "one of only two derrick pipe lay barges in the landlocked Caspian Sea" and looks forward to further growth.

Turkmenistan has significant experience with Malaysia's energy sector firms. The Malaysian state oil and gas company, Petronas, is reported to have invested $4.5 billion in Turkmenistan as of the end of 2011. Petronas has driven development of a block in Turkmenistan's offshore that is expected to produce 5 bcm/y to start, ramping up to 8-10 bcm/y by the middle of the current decade.

A gas processing for the product of the Petronas-developed offshore block is being constructed on Turkmenistan's Caspian Sea coast. In this sense, the choice of Malaysia's Bumi Armada to be the pipe layer is less surprising than it might at first seem. Turkmenistan's state media reported last year that the gas sourced from this offshore deposit will be exported but did not name the end consumer.

Dr Robert M Cutler (http://www.robertcutler.org), educated at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and The University of Michigan, has researched and taught at universities in the United States, Canada, France, Switzerland, and Russia. Now senior research fellow in the Institute of European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, Carleton University, Canada, he also consults privately in a variety of fields.

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