Work on TAPI gas pipeline to be accelerated

Nov 26, 2006 01:00 AM

Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the four partners of a proposed $ 3.3 bn pipeline, have vowed to accelerate work on the four-nation project to bring natural gas from Turkmenistan to India.
The declaration was adopted in New Delhi at a two-day regional economic cooperation forum on Afghanistan, which was attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

The partners of the so-called TAPI pipeline also committed to help Afghanistan become an energy bridge in the region. India's Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee appealed to member countries to resolve all disputes pertaining to the project so work can be complete on time.
"Work will be accelerated on the TAPI gas pipeline to develop a technically and commercially viable project," said the declaration.

The federal Indian Cabinet in its meeting May 19 gave its formal approval for India to join the pipeline though it had not formally been invited to become a part of the US- and Asian Development Bank-backed project. India also suggested that a working group on electricity, trade and energy development for TAPI be formed and the meeting of the group be held regularly so progress on the project can be monitored. The other three members of the project agreed to the suggestion.
"The pipeline project has the potential to meet natural gas requirements of the region contributing to stability in the South Asian region," said Jayanto Roychowdhury, a senior energy analyst.

India has asked Pakistan for transit facility as a part of the strategy for the development of Afghanistan. Initially, New Delhi expressed concern over the security of the pipeline, as half of it would pass through restive parts of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Following assurances from the member countries and the United States, however, India decided to join the joint venture.
"The US has also been pushing for the development of closer ties between Central Asia and South Asia and has supported the TAPI project as opposed to the Iran-Pakistan-India has pipeline," said Rangin Dadfar Sapanta, foreign minister of Afghanistan, who accompanied Karzai to the conference.

The ADB, the major sponsor of the project, allocated $ 1.5 mm to feasibility studies for the 790-mile pipeline. The feasibility study was completed in June 2003. Work on the project could not start, however, as there were doubts over its commercial feasibility. Those differences were resolved, however.
"India is all set to join the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan (TAP) gas pipeline project," said Dinsha Patel, junior Indian minister for petroleum and natural gas, who participated in two meetings of the steering committee of TAP before it became TAPI. "India, which is looking for alternative sources of gas, would participate in the TAP as a partner in the project."

Some of the issues that caused the delay such as finalizing amendments to the intergovernmental and framework agreements of the project were discussed thoroughly and thrashed out in the last meeting of the steering committee in September.
Although TAPI is not being considered as an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline, it would be easier to implement as it has the support of ADB. In mid-February, TAP's steering committee gave India three months to submit a formal request to join the $ 3.3-bn project, a process made mandatory by the ADB.

TAPI is expected to transport 100 mm cmpd of gas, of which India's share is 60 mm cmpd. The Indian Cabinet authorized the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas to submit a formal request to join the project to the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkmenistan, a process facilitated by the ADB. The proposed pipeline would stretch from the Turkmenistan/Afghanistan border in south-eastern Turkmenistan, to Multan, Pakistan, and be extended to India. The pipeline will carry natural gas from the Daulatabad Field in south-eastern Turkmenistan to India.
The prospects of the TAP gas pipeline came alive when India decided to join because the project was deemed unprofitable withoutIndian participation.

Source: UPI
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