Four months after announcing it would slash the amount of gas it buys from Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, Russian energy behemoth Gazprom has revealed the extent which its imports from Central Asia will fall this year.
On February 3, Vice Chairman Alexander Medvedev told an investment summit in Hong Kong that this year Gazprom will import two-fifths of the 10 billion cubic meters (bcm) it imported from Turkmenistan in 2014; it will buy less than a quarter of the roughly 4.5 bcm it bought from Uzbekistan last year.
Medvedev said the decisions had the blessings of both Central Asian states, while boasting that his company came to the agreements from a position of strength.
“For Gazprom, thanks to investment in extraction and transport infrastructure, there is no technological necessity for the purchase of foreign gas,” Medvedev said in comments picked up by state-run RIA Novosti. “Gazprom is in the situation to guarantee both the domestic demand in any region of the Russian Federation, and the delivery of gas to our customers in Europe, and in the future, Asia, with our own resources.”
The announcement came just hours before Moscow said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov would make a rare stopover in Ashgabat.
How much of a say Turkmenistan, in particular, had in Gazprom’s decision is open to debate. The reclusive, gas-rich country now exports 35 bcm annually to China, according to the China National Petroleum Company, but revenues from that trade are offset by the debt Turkmenistan owes CNPC for building the China-Turkmenistan pipeline, and may have suffered as a result of their being pegged to the price of crude oil
Other than China and Russia, Turkmenistan’s only buyer is a cash-strapped and dissatisfied Iran. Efforts to diversify via an ambitious pipeline across Afghanistan and Pakistan to India have been stalled for years.
Uzbekistan, on the other hand, might need all the gas it can get, since the country frequently suffers gas shortages.
Both Central Asian countries supply China, a market Gazprom is planning to tap.