American companies continue to discuss participation in TAPI project
Turkmenistan, Ashgabat, Feb. 23 / Trend H.Hasanov /
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake, who recently toured Central Asia, spoke at a press conference in Ashgabat on the issue of U.S. companies' taking part in implementing the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline project, the U.S. State Department reported.
"Those discussions are still underway. We're still in very early stage in the process," he said regarding the American companies' participation in building the TAPI project.
"We think that this project would not only benefit Turkmenistan but would have very important benefits for Afghanistan and would serve all of our larger interests in promoting greater regional integration between Central Asia and South Asia," he said.
Blake added that security is one of the several issues that remain to be discussed as talks go forward on the TAPI project. "I know an equally important one is how to arrange commercial financing for such a project," he said.
"We think that good progress has been made, but certainly many difficult issues remain to be solved and the United States is committed to doing what we can to encourage this project and to facilitate discussions with our own companies and perhaps others to help this project to come to fruition," Blake said.
Experts believe the ongoing escalation of tensions in Afghanistan is a serious obstacle to the implementation of the TAPI pipeline.
The project was supposed to be implemented in the early nineties, when the operator was the American company Unocal leading an international consortium. The idea came to naught after the Taliban loudly declared itself the leader of the major transit country - Afghanistan - where a significant part of the pipe would be laid.
However, the project was again included in the agenda when India joined the project proposal in 2008. The project became more cost-effective with the increased sales market. But the political risks have not diminished.
To ensure energy transit security, Turkmenistan has recently voiced an initiative to adopt a U.N. convention to ensure reliable and stable energy transit, which was supported by the structure. In addition, Ashgabat announced its readiness to conduct peace talks under the auspices of the U.N. Stabilization Mission in Afghanistan.
"It is really important for Afghanistan," U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon said in Ashgabat within the framework of his regional tour of Central Asia in April.
He stressed that the U.N. stands for the TAPI pipeline.
Penspen has developed a feasibility study on the project. Its design capacity is 33 billion cubic meters of gas a year.
The length of TAPI could reach 1,680 kilometers, with a design capacity of 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year. The route is planned from the Turkmen Dovletabat fields through Herat and Kandahar (Afghanistan), via the districts of Quetta (Pakistan), to Fazlaka on the India-Pakistan border.
Ashgabat hopes to include South Yoloten-Osman in addition to the Dovletabad fields in the project. Its reserves, according to recent data, are estimated at 21 trillion cubic meters of gas, and will serve as the resource base for TAPI.