Still early days for a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan

Vol 11, PW 7 (09 Aug 07) People & Policy

No doubt gas from Turkmenistan has a better chance of flowing to Pakistan and India now that Delhi plans to formally join the TAPI project.

But India’s oil ministry is not unduly excited. “Joining the TAPI project is just the first step,â€‌ we are told.

“It’s like admitting a child to nursery school. But at least the first step has been taken.

â€‌ After India signs the â€کFramework Agreement’ later this month and formally enters the TAPI project, “we will begin discussing the issues that are of concern to us.â€‌ Indian concerns broadly fall into two categories: gas reserves and security of supply.

Does Turkmenistan have adequate gas reserves And how can India ensure security of supplies through Pakistan and Afghanistan India has long insisted that gas reserves from the Dauletabad gasfield in Turkmenistan that will be committed to the TAPI project should be audited by an independent third party consultant to provide comfort to gas buyers in India. “Certification of the Dauletabad reserves is still an unresolved issue,â€‌ we hear.

As for security concerns, India feels the TAPI route presents as many if not more risks than the pipeline route from Iran. “At least for the pipeline from Iran the Pakistan government is in full control over the coastal areas that could be the route,â€‌ we are told.

“But the TAPI route passes through areas where Pakistan has little control and the Afghanistan government has almost no control over the route through their country.â€‌ Again, “to ensure Pakistan does not choke off our supplies through the pipeline from Iran, we could have an arrangement with Iran whereby they proportionately reduce supplies to Pakistan in such an eventuality.

â€‌ Adds our ministry source: “It is like if you catch my throat, I get somebody else to catch your throat.â€‌ Despite these concerns, India is keen to move forward on the TAPI project, not least because it can use it as a bargaining chip in talks with Iran.

“Iran should know that we have alternate sources of supply.â€‌