India studies 'gas from Turkmenistan'
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India studies 'gas from Turkmenistan'

For the first time, India is participating as an observer in a meeting on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline project.

india Updated: Feb 15, 2006 13:31 IST

For the first time, India is participating as an observer in a meeting on the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan gas pipeline project to study the possibility of getting gas from Turkmenistan.

Besides the security, technical and political issues, a major concern for Pakistan and India is whether Turkmenistan has sufficient gas reserves in the Dauletabad fields in its southeast part to make the $4-billion pipeline project viable.

The Indian team attending the three-day meeting that began on Monday in the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat is led by Minister of State for Petroleum Dinsha Patel and includes officials from the Indian Oil Corporation and GAIL (India) Ltd.

The Turkmenistan project is not being seen as an alternative to other gas pipeline projects proposed by Iran and Myanmar, especially as India would need to import about 200 million standard cubic metres per day (MMSCMD) of gas by 2020.

The Iran-Pakistan-India project is expected to supply about 90 MMSCMD gas and the Turkmenistan pipeline 60 MMSCMD gas. The Turkmenistan pipeline's total proposed capacity is 100 MMSCMD and Pakistan will off-take the remaining supply.

The Turkmenistan project is being supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Though the 1,680-km pipeline project was conceived in the early 1990s, progress has been slow, mainly due to political turbulence in Afghanistan that will serve only as a transit route.

It was only last year that former petroleum minister Mani Shankar Aiyar discussed India's possible participation in the project with Pakistan and later with Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries.

This was done with an eye on having Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and possibly Russia also joining the project.

The objective was to ensure larger gas reserves to make the project more viable.

"Issues with regard to the Turkmenistan project are the same as in the case of the Iran project - technical, financial and legal aspects to ensure a safe, secure and world-class project," a source in the petroleum ministry said.

ADB has done a feasibility study and suggested two routes to the Indian border. India favours the northern route through Afghanistan, Pakistan and over the Hindu Kush region to the Punjab border.

India's possible participation in the Turkmenistan project is also expected to be discussed during Pakistan Oil Minister Amanullah Khan Jadoon's visit to New Delhi Feb 16-18.

First Published: Feb 13, 2006 21:42 IST