TAP oil pipeline receives boost after being declared feasible

Apr 14, 2005 02:00 AM

A multi-billion pipeline project from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan (TAP) has received a major boost after the Asian Development Bank (ADB) declared it feasible and viable at a tripartite meeting held in Islamabad.
The meeting chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz and attended by the petroleum ministers of the three countries sounded upbeat and agreed to pursue the 1,600 km long pipeline project that may be extended to India.

Originating in Turkmenistan's Dauletabad field, the proposed pipeline will meet Pakistan's growing energy needs with Afghanistan getting the transit revenue. The feasibility of an estimated $ 3.3 bn project would be conducted after a submission of certificate on Dauletabad’s reserves by Turkmenistan that was one of the major obstacles in undertaking the project conceived in early 1990s.
The ADB had earlier financed the $ 1.5 mm pre-feasibility report.

Turkmen Minister Amangelgl Pudakov submitted an initial report of the survey conducted by US geological experts on the reserves and has promised to hand over details within one month. Pakistan says the project would be feasible only if it guaranteed supply of 30 mm cf of gas supply annually.
Afghan Minister Mohammad Saddiq has assured the safety of the pipeline that had remained a major source of concern for the project planners in the wake of volatile situation in the war-torn country. The Afghan government had already started to remove landmines along and near the route of the proposed pipeline that will travel nearly 500 km through Afghanistan.

Prime Minister Shaukat said the project would create linkages and inter-dependences and would strengthen ties and promote regional peace. Experts believe the project could ultimately be extended to India where energy demands are rising by 27 % annually.
"We will welcome India to join TAP. They are welcome to join but Pakistan will go ahead even if India does not join it," Pakistani Petroleum Minister Amanaullah Khan Jadoon said.

The TAP project is one of the four options Pakistan is pursuing along with overland Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline, Qatar-Pakistan undersea pipeline or LNG also from Qatar. Pakistan and Iran have already expressed their intention to speed up work on the project that is likely to be joined by India.
Petroleum ministers of Pakistan, Iran and India were to meet in Islamabad in the third week of March but the meeting was cancelled for administrative reasons in the backdrop of reports that the United States was exerting pressure on Pakistan and India not to pursue the project.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice during her recent visit to India and Pakistan expressed Washington's reservations in an apparent attempt to isolate Iran over its alleged nuclear program. Both Pakistan and India have dismissed any US pressure, but at the same time looking for other options to meet their energy needs. Pakistan will face a shortage of about 20 mm tons of oil equivalent in five years time, jumping to 100 mm tons by 2025.
In April 1999, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan agreed to reactivate the project but continuing fighting in Afghanistan and sanctions imposed by the United States and the United Nations on Kabul kept the project on hold.

Until recently, the pipeline was considered effectively dead, but with a fragile peace in Afghanistan established and the Taliban removed from power, the idea of a trans-Afghanistan pipeline has been revived.
In May 2002, Afghan President Aid Karzai, Turkmen President S. Niyazov and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf signed an agreement to work for the pipeline project. The three countries formally invited India in April 2003 to participate in the pipeline venture, both as an investor and consumer.

Source: Xinhua
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