India smells oil in Afghanistan
India?s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Rakesh Sood, has alerted the government on the opportunities available in the strife-torn neighbouring country.india Updated: May 18, 2006 02:24 IST
India’s Ambassador to Afghanistan, Rakesh Sood, has alerted the government on the opportunities available in the strife-torn neighbouring country. With India yet to come to terms with the Iran-India gas pipeline, an alternative Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project appears to be more feasible.
In a communique to senior external affairs and petroleum officials, Sood has said that the
US Geological Survey has undertaken an assessment on the undiscovered petroleum resources of northern Afgha-
nistan on behalf of the Afghan Ministry of Mines. Apparently, Sood reports, the known crude oil and natural gas reserves are in northern Afghanistan in two geological basins — the Amu Daria basin and the Afghan-Tajik basin. The volumes assessed are approximately 1.6 million barrels of crude oil and 15.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas.
These estimates are considerably higher than previous assessments undertaken by the former Soviet Union during its occupation in the 1980s. Sood reports that some of the oil and gas fields in Shibergan area, which were exploited in the 1980s, fell into disuse after the Soviet withdrawal.
TAPI pipeline project is expected to pass through the Shibergan region and Afghan output is expected to feed into the pipeline. Most importantly, while there is enormous political risk involved in venturing into Afghanistan, the warring nation is drawing up oil and natural gas exploration blocks and will soon be seeking exploration and production sharing arrangements with foreign companies.
Through his missive, Sood is seeking the participation of Indian companies in this process which would tie in and synergise well with India’s participation in the TAPI project. Afghan Mines Minister Ibrahim Adil is expected to visit India in the third week of May and Indian ministers and oil and gas outfits may well engage him in oil diplomacy.
The increasing importance of the TAPI project is vital for India’s burgeoning energy needs and its long-term strategic interests in Central Asia.
The Union Cabinet will clear tomorrow India’s participation in the $3.45 billion TAPI undertaking designed to transport natural gas from the Dawlatabad field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and eventually to India.
Officials in New Delhi said a pipeline from Turkmenistan would be less problematic than a new planned pipeline to transport natural gas from Iran.