Energy exports from Uzbekistan jumped in value by 81 percent last year, new figures show, thanks in part to a new pipeline to China. But as Tashkent enjoys the windfall, the vast majority of Uzbeks continue to face gas, electricity and heat shortages.
According to the State Statistics Committee, gas and other energy exports were worth $5.03 billion in 2012. That’s an increase of 81 percent over 2011, when the country exported $2.78 billion worth of energy products, mostly hydrocarbons. Citing government statistics, Uzdaily.uz reports that energy accounted for 35.3 percent of Uzbekistan’s total exports in 2012, up from 18.5 percent in 2011.
Last year, Uzbekistan joined a Turkmenistan-to-China pipeline that had opened in 2010 and, in August, started pumping China-bound gas for the first time. The pipeline was expected to export up to 4 billion cubic meters (bcm) of Uzbek gas to China by the end 2012 and 10 bcm this year.
The exports are sparking some resentment in Uzbekistan, however, as they negatively impact domestic supplies. Net output from Uzbekistan’s aging wells also appears to be falling. Local reports suggest output of oil and gas condensate in 2012 decreased by 11.6 percent year-on-year to 3.2 million metric tons and gas production by 0.2 percent year-on-year to 62.9 bcm.
There are also signs Uzbekistan cannot keep up with international demand. Tashkent suddenly cut supplies to Russia for 40 days in December and January, blaming especially cold weather for increased local demand. But the measure did not translate into improved gas supplies for local consumers, who suffered widespread outages at the time.
Official statistics in Uzbekistan are notoriously unreliable, so read the numbers with caution. It would not be unlike Tashkent to exaggerate exports to suggest the country’s economy is stronger than it really is, or underreport as part of some scheme to siphon cash into private bank accounts. In Uzbekistan, anything is possible.
Tashkent plans to supply 7.5 bcm of gas to Russia and 10 bcm to China this year, according to Neftegaz.ru, an industry publication. With output falling overall, those increasing exports may result in more regular gas outages in the capital, which has thus far been spared the worst of the shortages.