A long-stalled project to deliver Turkmen gas to Europe is again in the spotlight after a European Union official said the idea remains on the table.
Denis Daniilidis, the head of the EU mission in Ashgabat, told an oil and gas conference in the Turkmen capital on November 19 that negotiators are finalizing a deal to construct a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan across the Caspian Sea, bypassing Russia, Russia's RIA Novosti news agency reported.
According to the diplomat, negotiators are working on "some outstanding issues,” RIA said. The EU, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan will sign an agreement on related environmental issues this year, he added.
The trans-Caspian pipeline project is part of the EU-sponsored Southern Corridor that would deliver natural gas from Central Asia, the Caucasus and the Middle East to Europe while easing Europe’s dependence on Russian gas. Russia and Iran oppose the construction of any pipeline across the Caspian Sea, citing the unresolved status of the sea and maritime borders. But both have done little in 22 years since the breakup of the Soviet Union to remedy the issue, and both have been accused of creating obstacles to alternative energy corridors.
The Southern Corridor, first mooted in 2007, would include the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), from Azerbaijan's Caspian Sea coast to the Turkish-Bulgarian border; Nabucco West, from the Turkish-Bulgarian border to Austria; and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP), from the Greek-Turkish border to Italy across the Adriatic. All three projects are still at the idea stage, though workers were supposed to begin construction on TANAP this year. In June a consortium of Azeri gas producers turned down Nabucco West in favor of TAP.
Supply is unlikely an issue. Turkmenistan is China's largest foreign purveyor of natural gas, which it supplies via a pipeline that crosses Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The Central Asian state inaugurated the world's second-largest gas field earlier this year.
Turkmenistan is also being considered as a source of natural gas for a Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India pipeline (TAPI), which was first proposed in the mid-1990s. At the same conference in Ashgabat on November 19, gas companies from the four countries inched, yet again, toward a deal, Turkmenistan's state-run TDH news agency reported.