Today.Az » Analytics » Turkmenistan-Russia pipeline accord only way forward, say experts
21 May 2015 [16:03] - Today.Az
By Aynur Karimova
Recently, the Trans-Caspian Pipeline has become a hot topic of discussions both in Turkmenistan and Europe. The pipeline gained a prominent role after the start of the implementation of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline and the obviousness of increasingly tense relations between the EU and Russia over the unresolved Ukraine crises.
During his recent European tour, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov repeatedly stressed his country's willingness in the implementation of this project.
Energy-rich Turkmenistan, which ranks fourth in the world in terms of the volume of gas reserves after Russia, Iran and Qatar, and produces about 70-80 billion cubic meters of gas a year, is keen on increasing and diversifying the supply of its huge volume natural gas to Europe.
Regarded as one of the possible suppliers of gas to the integrated European market, the Central Asian state earlier used Russia's pipeline infrastructures in implementing export operations.
However, after the Ukraine crises the West imposed sanctions against Russia, which sells 150 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe. As these sanctions tighten Russia's export markets, it intends to supply its own gas rather than Turkmenistan's.
Southern neighbor Iran, which has been, for many years, suffering from international sanctions, seeks markets to sell its own gas. In such a scenario when the economic map of the world has drastically changed, Turkmenistan is focused on the construction of a new pipeline via the Caspian bottom-the Trans-Caspian Pipeline.
Recently, when Azerbaijan together with its European allies has started the implementation of the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline, which will further connect to the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline and carry Azerbaijan's natural gas to Europe, Turkmenistan has expressed interest in the realization of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline.
The construction of the 300-kilometer Trans-Caspian Pipeline, which will enable to transport up to 30 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe via Azerbaijan, is in the interest of Europe as the EU is trying to decrease its dependence on Russian gas.
Turkmenistan has the fourth largest gas reserves in the world, at a minimum some 17 trillion cubic meters, possibly as much as 25 or 26 trillion cubic meters. The construction of the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline will greatly expand the diversification of the Turkmen natural gas supply routes, as well as create an additional guarantee for the reliable and stable export of Turkmen energy resources to the international markets.
Azerbaijan is also interested in the construction of the Trans-Caspian Pipeline as it can gain huge benefits from the transportation the Turkmen gas via its territory.
However, first of all, the two Caspian littoral states together with other three coastal states -- Russia, Iran and Kazakhstan -- should reach a final agreement determining the legal status of the sea, which remains uncertain.
The abovementioned issue is a main tool for Russia to actively oppose the construction of the pipeline. Russia aims to protect its hegemony in European gas market via the energy giant Gazprom.
Moscow also expresses concerns about the potential environmental consequences of building a pipeline along the bottom of the Caspian Sea.
"Many people believe Moscow is not concerned about the legal status of the Caspian or any environmental consequences but rather about the loss of revenue that would follow if Turkmenistan could export gas to Europe," Expert on Central Asia and Senior Correspondent at Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Bruce Pannier told AzerNews.
Both Turkmenistan and the EU are interested in an energy alliance. But the main case standing behind the Turkmen government is to agree the construction of this pipeline with the region's main player Russia.