December 02, 2009

Pipelineistan: China Gets Gas While Stans Compete

The 2009 Turkmenistan Electric and Scientific Exhibition opens next week in the capital Ashgabat. Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov was in Rome last week being wined and dined, taken to the racetrack, and signing deals with Italy's oil major ENI while PM Berlusconi promised to send a film crew to broadcast Turkmenistan's charms to Italian travelers.

Meanwhile US special envoy for Caspian Sea energy David Stein was in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, where leaks say the government is coming close to a deal with Turkemenistan to divvy up the middle of the Caspian and allow a pipeline between the two nations to connect with the Nabucco pipeline project.

Years in planning, the Nabucco pipeline project is the hope of the EU, Germany in particular, to move away from dependence on Russian gas imports. Russia and Turkemenistan are in stalemate over a gas pipeline that is largely complete but not in use. Russian President Medvedev has just arrived in Italy on the heels of his Turkmen counterpart and will visit Turkmenistan later this month.

Turkmenistan may have the world's fifth largest recoverable reserves of natural gas. The country exports electricity to neighbors Iran and Afghanistan and also throughout central Asia via a Soviet era grid system. With American assistance neighboring Uzbekistan has built its own modern grid and announced this week it would soon withdraw from the legacy transmission system and potentially leave parts of the region at Uzbekistan's mercy just in time for Winter weather.

But while Europe, Russia, and all the "stans" compete, the Turkmenistan-China gas pipeline will begin delivering gas to China in mid December.....

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