Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan to work on pipeline differences

Mar 11, 2007 01:00 AM

The officials of Pakistan, Turkmenistan, Afghanistan have decided to work their differences that are blocking the establishment of gas pipeline project.
A meeting of working group of the three countries would meet in Ashgabat later this month to push through the pipeline from central Asia to Pakistan which was lingering for the last two years.

A senior official of the petroleum ministry said that the working group meeting was long overdue but was further delayed because of the death of former Turkmen president and then presidential elections. He said the dates were being finalised for the secretary-level moot within this month.
The official said the capital cost of the 1,435-km pipeline of 56-inch diameter had recently been updated to about $ 4 bn from $ 3.3 bn in 2003.

The pipeline that is to originate from Turkmenistan's Daulatabad gas field will run 145-km in the host country, 735-km in Afghanistan and 555-km in Pakistan to Multan under the preferred southern route i.e. via Heart and Kandahar.
The official said the Asian Development Bank (ADB) was also working on northern route on Indian request that should pass through Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul and Peshawar to Lahore for onward extension to Indian city of Bikaner. ADB had originally funded the feasibility study for the project in 2004 and was now updating it.

In the upcoming meeting, two major milestones would be achieved. Pakistan will table a draft gas sales and purchase agreement (GSPA) and Turkmenistan will make a formal offer on gas pricing for the project. The three countries will also consider whether or not to include India in the project following a formal Indian request on the subject.
ADB is facilitating the meeting while India is also expected attend as observer. The meeting will also discuss the longstanding issue of gas reserves availability, its third party certification and dedication of gas quantities by Ashgabat for the project.

"Security of pipeline in Afghanistan's 735-km route is a serious concern" and the meeting will also ponder over remedial measures to mitigate security risks, the official said. The United States is supportive of the project and is ready to assist in security issues.
In a fresh update, the ministry of petroleum has said that the TAP pipeline project is currently faced with seven major bottlenecks. These include non-confirmation of uncommitted gas volume by Turkmenistan regarding Daulatabad gas field, uncertainties or lack of clarity with regard to price of the gas to be demanded by Turkmenistan and security situation in Afghanistan.

Also there are significant difficulties in the expected implementation of security and risk mitigation measures proposed by the Asian Development Bank's consultant and usual delays of the Turkmen government in complying with the decisions taken by the tripartite steering committee. There are chances of raising a special security force in Afghanistan to protect the pipeline; still the law and order situation there is a cause of real concern that would remain in place for many years to come.
The ministry has also identified as bottlenecks the third party guarantees for the required gas allocation by Turkmenistan government and internal political situation in Turkmenistan.

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