Turkmenistan concerned over delay in TAPI pipeline

In Business
March 27, 2024



ISLAMABAD:

The ambassador of Turkmenistan has expressed concern over delay in implementation of the long overdue Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project, officials say.

Turkmenistan and other participating countries including Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have already signed a commercial deal pertaining to gas sale and purchase decades ago. However, since then, there has been no progress on the critical energy scheme, particularly for Pakistan which regularly faces gas scarcity, despite assurances from the Afghan Taliban rulers that they would extend full support to the project. Central Asian states have been supplying electricity to Afghanistan since long but the Taliban have not attacked any such installations.

At a meeting with Turkmenistan Ambassador Atadjan Movlamov, Petroleum Minister Dr Musadik Malik emphasised that Pakistan remained steadfast in its commitment to advancing the TAPI project. The minister praised the ambassador’s support and pledged to uphold the partnership between the two countries. Calling TAPI a flagship project, he said Pakistan was committed to completing work on the pipeline. Notably, during his previous stint, the project saw unprecedented momentum, which resulted in significant progress and tangible outcomes. Looking ahead, he vowed to advance the project and avoid losing momentum. The ambassador told the minister that inter-governmental commission and working group meetings were scheduled to be held this year.

Read TAPI pipeline deal

“TAPI is a win-win project for all parties,” he remarked and invited Pakistan to attend an energy forum being hosted by Turkmenistan in Paris. Earlier, the TAPI project started suffering delays when Pakistan asked Turkmenistan for gas price revision during the tenure of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government. However, Turkmenistan refused to revise gas prices, arguing that it would also have to provide justification to other countries like Afghanistan and India, which may seek price revision as well. Later, the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) government also took up the matter with Turkmenistan. So far, no progress has been made on the price revision request.

The prolonged delay sparked suspicions that the pipeline project may eventually come to a halt as Pakistan had become more dependent on LNG imports. Three key players including Qatar, Iran and Turkmenistan are vying for a larger slice of the international gas market. Of these, Qatar is a leading exporter of LNG to Pakistan. Pakistan has been working on Iran-Pakistan and TAPI gas pipeline projects since long. Iran had planned to supply gas from its South Pars field, which is situated along the Iran-Qatar border.

Qatar is also extracting gas from this joint field and selling it to different customers including Pakistan whereas Iran is under US sanctions, which have barred it from executing the IP project.

Industry officials reveal that US companies are working with Qatari firms on gas extraction and sale to different countries in the form of LNG.

Earlier, USAID had extended legal support to Pakistan for striking an LNG deal with Qatar in 2015. Washington has also provided its backing for the TAPI project, which will divert Turkmen gas from Russia to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. At present, Russia is taking gas supplies from Turkmenistan and selling them to Europe. Moreover, TAPI will emerge as an energy corridor that will connect three rival countries.

Even Russia is in favour of the TAPI pipeline, which it wants to use for gas supply to Pakistan, India and other neighbouring countries.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2024.

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