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Sunday, July 29, 2007

New Turkmen export routes 'still far off'

turkmenistan26 July 2007 - Upstream OnLine - Turkmenistan will remain dependent on Russia as the main conduit for its gas exports and alternative routes to China and Iran are still a long way off, an executive at Russia's gas monopoly Gazprom said today. "It is Gazprom's view that Turkmenistan's new export regions, China and Iran, won't happen in the near future," the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. Top Turkmen officials visited Beijing last week to sign deals to bring closer their shared goal of exporting 30 billion cubic metres of gas per year eastward to China within the next three decades. The Gazprom official was speaking ahead of a round of talks with Central Asian gas companies in early August to review strategic pipeline options. Representatives from state-controlled Gazprom, Kazakhstan's KazMunaiGas, Turkmengas and Uzbekneftegas will focus on two major gas pipelines at the meeting in the Kazakh capital Almaty. The Trans-Caspian pipeline, which would bypass Russia, would take Turkmen gas under the sea to Azerbaijan and then overland to Europe. The link, with annual capacity of 30 Bcm, is scheduled to go on stream in 2010-2011. The official declined to comment on the viability of the Trans-Caspian project, but analysts have said that Gazprom might want to kill it off as it poses a threat to Russia's monopoly control over Central Asian gas exports to Europe. A second pipeline will also be discussed that would supply 10 Bcm per year of Kazakh and Turkmen gas around the eastern side of the Caspian Sea to Russia. "The main focus of the meeting will be the future of these pipelines and we will of course consider the economic benefits to Gazprom," the official, who has a marketing role, said. Turkmen gas exports are expected to increase substantially over the next three years. After 2010, around 100 Bcm of natural gas will be exported from the former-Soviet country, with most ending up in Russia, he said. Turkmenistan has previously said it plans to increase its sales to Russia - its largest customer - by a quarter this year to 58 Bcm, but has plans to diversify its export routes.

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