Opening of Gas Pipeline “Turkmenistan-China” – a Positive Development for RF

Moscow, December 23, 2009 (ITAR-TASS). Opening of gas export pipeline from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan to China is without any doubt a positive development for the interests of Russia and Turkmenistan and simultaneously an alarming signal to big Europe. Such a view has been expressed today in an interview to ITAR-TASS chairman of the Russia-Iraq Business Council and head of the Board of the Union of Oil and Gas Industrialists of RF Yuri Shafranik.

He called the gas pipeline opened a week ago in the presence of Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and PRC’s Chairman Hu Zintao a “great, fateful project”. “Great for the Republic of Turkmenistan who realized this really great project in a short time. Along with Azerbaijan’s increase of gas deliveries to Iran this is a favorable diversification of Turkmenistan’s gas sales and coming of real investments and technologies”. In a multi-component formula of Russia’s politico-economic position on this development Shafranik considers it necessary “to surely take into account that Turkmenistan is a brother republic that has and will have a lot in common with Russia”.

“Among obvious pluses of our Turkmenian friends is a binding of China to long term investment projects of exploration of new deposits in Turkmenia and the pipes laid are a material clip between the countries not for a year or for 5 years but for a minimum of 50 years”, notes Y.Shafranik, who heads Russian business cooperation councils with many countries of Central Asia and the Middle East.

“You and me can be confident enough that in coming decades the PRC will develop with faster tempos than the world’s and a tie up to this giant steadily growing market of in perspective the biggest player of world economy is a new Ashgabat’s competitive advantage, a big stimulus for its development. We are good partners and a good partner can only be glad with it”, believes Y.Shafranik.

As far as the agreements between Iran and China are concerned (they forsee a lower gas price than the one supposedly to be proposed to Russia) in view of the head of the Oil and Gas Industrialists Union there is “no reason for nervousness”.

“The prices for China will certainly differ from the European but there will be compensation with China’s credit resources”, noted Y.Shafranik. He believes that “to asses relations only according to a simple price is not right”.

China provided Turkmenistan with favorable credits for financing oil and gas and telecommunication deliveries. Earlier the PRC also provided Turkmenistan with a US$ 4 billion credit to realize the project of development “Yuzhny-Yolotan-Osman” deposit that at present is the biggest gas deposit of Turkmenistan with reserves from 4 to 14 trillion cubic m. According to international experts estimate this gas field is the fourth largest in the world.

The question whether the interests of Russia who previously has been monopolistic importer of Turkmenian gas will suffer was answered by Y.Shafranik negatively:

No, they will not because we have our own giant gas resources and exits to different markets. But Europe may already start worrying. She must realize that the world is changing, new points of growth have appeared, they demand energy resources and now producer gets the opportunity to choose markets and ways to build profitable relations with them”.

The emergence of gas pipe from Turkmenistan to China in Shafranik’s view “means that in Europe’s eyes the by passing Russia gas pipeline project “Nabucco” begins to collapse. As they say in ads: supply is limited, and a new very big “eater – China” received direct access to Turkmenian “storeroom”.

“But, he added, in Moscow too one should make his conclusions, retain historically built, special, brotherly relationship and along with this quite pragmatically and energetically build Pre-Caspian gas pipeline”.

“It seems to me that we are underestimating Turkmenistan as an independent established state that has formulated strategic energy vector of national development and does not value everything in money and even more in today’s prices”, stressed he.

On the eve of it in Ashgabat in the presence of presidents of Russia and Turkmenistan amendments and additions to the sales-purchase natural gas contract of April 2003 were signed. Russia and Turkmenistan have agreed to renew Turkmenian gas deliveries as early as at the beginning of January with the volume up to 30 billion cbm yearly. The current agreement between Russia and Turkmenistan – the biggest owners of energy carriers – the 25-year agreement on cooperation in gas industry (2003-2008) has required some updates. For Russia the cause of this has become the global economic crisis and consequential decrease of gas demand in European Union and Ukraine – its main markets. For Turkmenistan it is the appearance of a new gas export transportation route Turkmenistan-Uzbekistan-Kazakhstan-China, by which Ashgabat will next year supply 6 billion cbm of gas and by 2015 – even 40 billion cbm.

Under these conditions Shafranik’s estimate of a new pipeline for Europe is shared by European experts, too. “European Union has surely lost the time for getting access to Turkmenian gas, China has managed to come ahead of us”, said an official of the European Commission to ITAR-TASS correspondent Vitaly Makarchev.

As a result China will become one of the biggest consumers of Central Asian gas.

London City experts warn that the consequence of opening of the new gas pipeline will be the situation when main flows of gas from Central Asia will go to Russia and China and there will be no gas for European Union.