Turkmenistan opens up gas and oil fields

Oct 01, 2008 02:00 AM

Turkmenistan's president declared the gas-rich but isolated central Asian state "open to the world", as it stepped up its efforts to deepen relations with the west since the death of its autocratic leader last December. Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov told the UN General Assembly that Turkmenistan was "open for broad-scale partnership in all areas of activity".
The country's energy strategy was "aimed at developing a multiple pipelines system to bring Turkmen energy resources to the international market on a stable and long-term basis", he said.

Mr Berdymukhamedov's predecessor Saparmurat Niyazov ruled Turkmenistan as a personal fiefdom and barred outsiders from its onshore gas fields, which are believed to hold some of the world's largest reserves. His successor and former dentist, who won office this year, has promised to open Turkmenistan to outside investment and revitalise its oil and gas industries. No large deals with the west have been signed in either sector for many years.
Mr Berdymukhamedov has said he is open to a project, stalled during the Niyazov era, to build a gas pipeline across the Caspian Sea -- the first non-Russian route for central Asian gas to western markets.

He has been in the US with a group of Turkmen oil and gas officials, led by Baymurat Myradov, the executive director of the new state hydrocarbon agency. The delegation was visiting Washington and Houston for talks with government and industry officials, and Mr Berdymukhamedov held talks with Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state.
"They talked about energy opportunities, including co-operation with US companies, but also with other countries in the region," the US wrote in an e-mailed statement. The two sides had also discussed the "development of political freedoms and an independent judiciary", the statement said.

At present, Moscow controls almost all gas export pipelines from central Asia and in May, Vladimir Putin, Russia's president, agreed with the leaders of Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan to carry additional central Asian natural gas exports north into Russia via a new pipeline. Earlier Turkmenistan, signalling a possible policy change, awarded China the rights to develop gas reserves in the east of the republic to feed an export pipeline that is being built to China, the first big non-Russian route from the country.
In the oil sector, Chevron, BP, Total and Conoco-Phillips are seeking Turkmen deals in a partnership with LUKoil of Russia and are looking for opportunities in the Caspian basin. Petronas, the Malaysian state oil company, is so far the only large foreign venture in Turkmenistan's Caspian Sea waters.

The Turkmens have asked western oil companies about offshore leasing deals in the Gulf of Mexico. Analysts warned that Turkmen oil deals would take time to materialise.
Julia Nanay, senior director at PFC Energy, said: "Negotiating contracts tends to take years and first they need to decide on the framework for contracts."

Source / United Nations FT Syndication Service
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