Turkmenistan brings Trans Caspian pipeline on table

By Gulgiz Dadashova

Trans Caspian gas pipeline, one of the most popular energy projects that can allow Ashgabat to diversify its energy routes, has again occupied the agenda of the Turkmen government.

The Turkmen side announced on February 1 that it has activated works for supplying gas to the European market via the planned Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP), advocated by Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, and backed by EU and Turkey.

The diversification of Turkmen energy supply is expected to be discussed during the seventh Turkmenistan Gas Congress scheduled for May 19-20 in Avaza.

"Turkmenistan has proved itself as a reliable and promising partner in international cooperation, by confirming its status as one of the largest suppliers of gas to the world markets. The national program on energy export diversification envisages developing new routes in the Eastern and European destinations,” the governmental statement said.

The TCP stipulates transportation of Turkmen gas through Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan and onwards to Turkey and Europe. Despite disputes relating to their marine borders, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan have expressed support for the TCP project. After all, it is much better to have several ‘gas hungry’ clients than one.

Turkmen President Berdymukhamedov recently emphasized that the pipeline project is receiving much international support, while Maros Sefcovic, the vice-president of the European Commission for Energy Union, said Europe expects to get the Turkmen gas in 2019.

As the hydrocarbon-rich Caspian Sea has whetted the appetites of many European policy-makers, the European Commission has favored the pipe, but Moscow and Tehran have objected to the construction of a pipeline on the seabed.

Experts say although Iran’s opposition may be weak due to the removal of sanctions for oil and gas supplies, Russia will not be happy with this pipe given its highly ambitious goals in the global politics.

Turkmen gas will not reach Europe in short or medium term, says Professor Jonathan Stern, chairman and senior research fellow at the Natural Gas Research Program of the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

Stern told Trend that the only route for such supplies would be across the Caspian Sea, unless they can go via Iran. However, he noted that both routes will be costly.

The EU, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan created a special working group in 2015 at the level of deputy ministers in charge of energy sphere. Moreover, in late 2015, Turkmenistan commissioned the East-West gas pipeline, which could be used for natural gas transfer from Galkynysh – the biggest deposit in the country’s eastern regions – to European markets.

Azerbaijan, whilst continuing to push its role of transit country for Turkmen gas, as the country already started realization of its west routes -- the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP) as well as the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).

The initial capacity at the project’s first stage in envisaged to be 8 billion cubic meters. TCP will branchoff at a connection with the East-West pipeline in Turkmenistan at the Turkmen shore. Offshore gas production is expected to feed into the system as well. It will be connected to Sangachal terminal in Azerbaijan, which will then be linked to the European gas grid.

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