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15 Oct, 2008 19:03

Turkmenistan wins gas jackpot

Energy-rich Turkmenistan may be about to get a whole lot richer. Energy experts say the Central Asian republic could be sitting on the fourth of fifth biggest gas field in the world.

British energy consulting firm Gaffney, Cline, & Associates is reported to have marked the Yolotan-Osman gas field as holding between four and 14 trillion cubic metres.

If accurate, these figures could push Turkmenistan’s total gas reserves to over 20 trillion cubic metres – a lot more than BP’s estimate of 2.9 trillion.

What does the discovery mean?  And in particular, what impact could it have on post-soviet geopolitics and gas exports to the EU – Russia’s number one energy customer?

The gas field could make Turkmenistan the major supplier of gas for the non-Russian Nabucco pipeline project. An attempt to limit dependency on Moscow-controlled energy, the Western-backed Nabucco project is designed to bypass the world’s top gas producer and pump up to 30 billion cubic metres of gas a year to the EU from Central Asia via Turkey and Azerbaijan.

Former Azerbaijani oil sector head, Sabit Bagirov, says the discovery is a welcome find as Europe’s demand for shows no sign of slowing.

“The European energy market grows annually by 2% and that will continue. Even projects like Nabucco won't meet demand. Europe will need gas from Russia, and Turkmenistan as well as countries like Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan.”

Turkmen authorities claim the country could produce up to 150 billion cubic metres of gas per year.

Analyst Lev Snykov from VTB Group oil and gas sector says:

“There is a certain process that needs to take place before Gazprom or customers can rely on specific production numbers.”

Turkmenistan sells most of its natural gas to Gazprom. But with ambitious plans to sell to China and other countries around the world, the new capacity will be music to the ears of the Turkmen government.  However, the reserves have to be confirmed and further audits are expected before a final report is published.