Turkmenistan-Pakistan pipeline feasibility questioned

Members of the CentGas consortium, set up to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, gathered in Ashgabat recently for a second round of discussions. But it appears that the meeting did little to push the project forward.


Members of the CentGas consortium, set up to build a pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan, gathered in Ashgabat recently for a second round of discussions. But it appears that the meeting did little to push the project forward.

The Turkmen press played up the positive aspects of the discussions last September, noting that the consortium members had discussed plans for preparatory work on the pipeline project. These sources also reported that President Saparmurad Niyazov had signaled his commitment to the project by signing a resolution providing for the creation of a special working group for the pipeline, which would extend from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan. Only one other such working group�the body set up to handle the Trans-Caspian Pipeline project�exists in Turkmenistan.

Nevertheless, even the Turkmen media sources noted that CentGas members had expressed some reservations about the feasibility of the project. Consortium members said it would be difficult to move ahead with work unless conditions in strife-ridden Afghanistan improve and unless a new leader for CentGas is chosen.

US firm Unocal Corp. formerly led the project, but company officials said late last year they were abandoning the project because of the need to cut costs in the Caspian region and because of the repeated failure of efforts to resolve civil conflict in Afghanistan.

Unocal had held a 54.11% stake in CentGas, and the remaining 45.89% was split between Delta of Saudi Arabia (15%), Inpex and Itochu of Japan (7.22% each), the government of Turkmenistan (7%), Hyundai Engineering & Construction of South Korea (5.54%), and Crescent Group of Pakistan (3.89%).

Unocal had planned to lay a 1,400-km, 48-in. pipeline capable of carrying up to 20 billion cu m/year of gas from Turkmenistan's Dauletabad gas field to the Pakistani port of Multan on the Arabian Sea. Estimated cost of the project is about $1.9 billion�$2.4 billion if a branch to India is built. Turkmen media have reported the cost of the pipeline at $2.0-3.5 billion.

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