Books on Turkmenistan
Update No: 311 - (29/11/06)
Free energy for all
There are few concerns about energy costs in the Central Asian nation of
Turkmenistan. Its eccentric leader said all citizens will be provided with
natural gas and power free of charge through 2030. President Saparmurat Niyazov
said the decision will "help ensure a carefree life" for all
Turkmenistan is the second-biggest natural gas producer in the former Soviet
Union after Russia.
His latest idea may be due to euphoria after a remarkable find, claimed to have
been made in early November. This, if true, more than triples the country's
already huge gas reserves, the fifth highest in the world, of which more soon.
The weirdo of Central Asia
Anything Niyazov says has to be treated cautiously from mundane matters, however
important, to spiritual ones.
He has ruled for 20 years and has developed an elaborate personality cult.
Golden statues and busts of the president are scattered across the country, and
his portrait is on every bank note and coin.
Niyazov, though a national Muslim like the majority of his countrymen, is well
on his way to establishing his own Muslim heresy. He has written a book of
spiritual thoughts that all students are required to study in school, the
Rukhmana (anyone who reads it three times, however, is promised a place in
heaven) and he's ordered its placement in mosques next to the Koran.
Niyazov persecutes Christians, Muslims who object to his cult of personality,
and other believers, outlawing their gatherings, confiscating their literature,
imprisoning those caught praying together even in private homes, and, in a
throwback to Soviet-era practice, reportedly confining some in psychiatric
hospitals. There are over 7,000 political prisoners.
Visiting German FM Assails Turkmen Rights Record
Germany is due to take over the EU's rotating presidency on January 1. It
has an increasing clout on the world stage since re-unification, now led by the
former East German, Angela Merkel. It has the largest volume of exports in the
world. It is not looking to Turkmenistan for its gas, but Russia.
Visiting German Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, has been the first
visitor to Turkmenistan to criticize President Niyazov's government over its
poor human rights record to his face on a visit in November. Germany's dpa news
agency quoted Steinmeier as saying that Turkmen authorities are "too
hesitant" in implementing political reforms. The ZDF state television
channel says the German visitor referred to Turkmenistan's "deficit in
Steinmeier made the comments in Ashgabat, where he arrived as part of a weeklong
tour of Central Asian capitals.
Steinmeier, who met with Niyazov for three hours, said both sides could not
overcome their differences.
This is a stark and very undiplomatic way of putting things. He may have been
heavy handed in true German style, but just as well. For once, an eminent
foreign visitor is not kow-towing to an Asian energy pioneer with primitive
concepts of human rights.
Turkmenistan's official TDH news agency reported on the meeting between Niyazov
and Steinmeier, but made no mention of the German foreign minister's criticism.
In a letter sent to Steinmeier on October 26th, the New York-based
nongovernmental group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it hoped he would use his
visit to "reinforce the message about the urgent need for concrete reform
steps as a pre-condition for any deepening of EU engagement with the Turkmen
government." He has done exactly that.
CNPC to participate in development of giant Turkmen gas field discovered in
Niyazov is well aware that non-Western countries are not at all squeamish.
He prefers dealing with them. Joint development of a vast new gas field is being
offered to the Chinese, who are certain to accept.
Turkmenistan has invited the China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) to
participate in the exploration of a newly discovered giant natural gas field in
the resource-rich ex-Soviet state, the government said on November 22nd.
President Saparmurat Niyazov signed a decree that envisages CNPC's participation
in the exploration and development of the southeastern Iolotan field, which was
'discovered' earlier in the month, Niyazov's press service said in a statement.
This and the kind of detail that is reported (so quickly) makes it suspect,
particularly as Turkmenistan gas is under query as to whether all reserves are
Niyazov claimed the field contained an estimated 7 trillion cubic meters of
natural gas, adding to the Central Asian state's proven commercial reserves of
2.8 trillion cubic meters. If confirmed, this is a major development for the
world gas industry. But Niyazov is too eccentric to be entirely trusted. It may
be just another of his pranks, grossly exaggerating a more modest discovery. But
then it may be true. Gas men everywhere will be electrified to know.
Within the next three years, CNPC would drill 12 wells up to 5,000 meters
(16,400 feet) deep for gas worth a total of US$152 million (119 million Euro),
excluding valued added tax, the statement said without specifying the amount of
Turkmenistan possesses the second-biggest gas reserves among all ex-Soviet
republics, after Russia, and its resources are playing an increasingly important
role in regional geopolitics.
In April, Turkmenistan concluded an agreement to build a gas pipeline to China.
Currently Russia's state gas giant Gazprom controls the only transit route for
Turkmen gas exports, going north towards Russian territory.
The agreement with Turkmenistan was the latest in the series of
multibillion-dollar (multibillion-euro) deals concluded by energy-hungry China.
Neighbouring Kazakstan launched a pipeline to deliver oil to China in December
2005. In March 2006 Russia announced it would build another pipeline to
transport gas and affirmed its commitment to building an oil pipeline.
Project of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to India may become a challenge
Then there is the vast Indian market to be considered. Postponed many times,
the beginning of construction of a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan
to Pakistan to India could now be a matter of a few months. Now big unresolved
question still remains. Security for the pipeline in Afghanistan depends on
peace there, not yet achieved. Also there's unresolved questions about
Turkmenistans' ability to supply natural gas without tapping in to undeveloped
reserves - if these are proven to exist.
The agreement was made at the two-day regional conference "Asia: Energy
Cooperation" in New Delhi. Eighteen countries including Russia participated
in the conference. Construction of the pipeline 1,680 kilometres long will cost
US$3.3 billion. The Great Asian Pipe will run from Dovletad in Turkmenistan via
Kandahar (Afghanistan) to the settlement of Fazilka in India on the
Indian-Pakistani border. The feasibility study will probably be provided by
Penspen of Great Britain, presumably the management company.
Presidents of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan signed the framework
accord in 2003. Tempted as it was by financial considerations, official
Islamabad was nevertheless reluctant to become a party to the strengthening of
India through guaranteed gas deliveries. Encouraged and backed by Washington and
London, Afghani Foreign Minister Dadfar Spanta at the New Delhi conference
openly urged Islamabad to finally give his country a transport corridor to
India. It worked - or so it seems.
The future gas pipeline in the meantime is in the focus of another intrigue, one
that can be traced to Ashkhabad. President of Turkmenistan Saparmurat Niyazov
has actively promoted the Asian project for the last year or two, simultaneously
with Moscow's lobbyism of Gazprom and its global interests. It is common
knowledge that it took Turkmen gas to finally resolve the Russian-Ukrainian gas
crisis. The motives of the Turkmenbashi's relations with Gazprom, however,
remained mostly hidden. Could it be that Niyazov saw the Asian project as a
chance to arrange direct export of Turkmen gas? Could it be that he chose to
rely on Gazprom's export capacities even here?
One other nuance directly concerns Moscow that seems to have gained confidence
in its ability to act in several directions at once. It's reasoning comes down
to the simple thesis: if Europe proves intractable, we'll find customers in
Asia. Russia's geopolitical rivals in the meantime are busy. The New Delhi
conference indicates that they actively promote alternative projects and first
and foremost in the very heart of Asia. It means that the geostrategic game of
the 21st century may actually fail to follow the Moscow script.
Turkmenistan could be a great beneficiary here.
Turkmen oil, gas industry won't be privatised
The Turkmen oil and gas industry will not be privatised, President Saparmurat
Niyazov said at the 17th session of the Khalk Maslakhaty People's Council on
October 25th, New Europe reported.
The government will retain control of the oil and gas industry, "which
guarantees that the entire people will benefit from the immense mineral
resources of Turkmenistan, rather than a few making a fortune," he said.
"Anyone wishing to buy crude and petroleum products can do so at the state
raw material exchange of Turkmenistan and resell them," he said. The oil
and gas industry will make up 50 per cent of national revenues in the future,
Niyazov said. Turkmenistan will produce 1.19 billion tonnes of oil in 2007-2023,
and 648 million tonnes will be exported. Net oil profits will amount to US$259.2
billion in that period, he said. Turkmenistan will also produce 4.09 trillion
cubic metres of gas, including 2.88 trillion to be sold abroad, netting US$288
billion for the country, Niyazov said. "The industry will make up 50 per
cent of national revenues, while the rest will come from textile,
machine-building and other industries and agriculture," he said. Even if
Turkmenistan yearly produces 200 billion cubic metres of gas, the appraised
reserves will last for 250 years, he said. As for possible buyers of Turkmen
energy resources, Niyazov recalled a large gas contract with China that
stipulated annual exports of 30 billion cubic metres starting from 2009.
"There will be peace in the neighbouring land of Afghanistan sooner or
later, and we will be able to supply 30 billion cubic metres of Turkmen natural
gas per year through Afghanistan to Pakistan and farther on to India. Another
possible route is a gas pipeline through Afghanistan and Persian Gulf countries
to the United Arab Emirates. This is a subject for negotiations. One more route
is Russia. At present, Turkmenistan annually supplies 50 billion cubic metres of
gas to the Russian Federation," he said. It is possible to build another
gas pipeline to Russia along the Caspian coast, through Garabogaz and Kazakstan,
Plans to boost gas production to 250 bcm a year by 2030
Turkmenistan is planning to increase natural gas production to 250 billion cubic
metres a year and oil production to 110 million tonnes by 2030, according to a
development programme for the oil and gas sector approved by the parliament,
Interfax News Agency reported.
The growth will be achieved through a wide implementation of modern technology,
the launch of new oil and gas fields and an increase in return from production
at existing oil and gas fields, the programme said.
Oil refining is expected to increase to 30 million tonnes by 2030 by renovating
and re-equipping existing oil refineries and the launch of new production.
Most of the programme is based on cooperation with foreign partners that already
work in the country, such as Petronas, Dragon Oil, Burren Energy and Maersk Oil,
as well as with other companies.
Turkmenistan produced 9.5 million tonnes of oil and 63 billion cubic metres of
natural gas in 2005.