Millennium Post

TAPI pipeline: India urges Turkmenistan to relax law

With construction of the $10 billion TAPI pipeline stuck for want of a credible operator, India on  Wednesday pressed Turkmenistan to relax its domestic law to help get an international firm for building the project.

The four-nations to the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan- Pakistan-India gas pipeline project met in Islamabad to resolve issues so that work on the project can start this year.

An official statement issued in New Delhi said Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan has reiterated “India’s commitment to source natural gas from Turkmenistan through TAPI natural gas pipeline project and made a renewed pitch for the expeditious appointment of a mutually acceptable Consortium Leader, which is a vital step in the implementation of the project, in a time-bound manner.”

TAPI project has remained on the drawing board since the four nations have not been able to get an international firm to head a consortium, which will lay and operate the pipeline. French giant Total SA had initially envisaged interest in leading a consortium of national oil companies of the four nations in the TAPI project. 

However, it backed off after Turkmenistan refused to accept its condition of a stake in the gas field that will feed the pipeline. Since the four state-owned firms, including GAIL of India, neither have the financial muscle nor the experience of cross-country line, an international company that will build and also operate the line in hostile territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan, is needed. Sources said Turkmenistan has so far maintained that its law does not provide for giving foreign firms an equity stake in upstream gas field, without which western energy giants will not be interested to take the risk. At the 20th Steering Committee meeting of TAPI project, Pradhan “also articulated the need for the project to be a win-win proposition for all participating countries. The very fact that India has had regular Ministerial representation at the TAPI Steering Committee Meeting, bears testimony to the importance which has been attached by the government to this project despite the apprehensions regarding geo-political situation and security scenario involving the project,” the statement said. The TAPI pipeline will have a capacity to carry 90 million standard cubic metres a day (mmscmd) gas for a 30-year period and will be operational in 2018. India and Pakistan would get 38 mmscmd each, while the remaining 14 mmscmd will be supplied to Afghanistan. TAPI will carry gas from Turkmenistan’s Galkynysh field, better known by its previous name South Yoiotan Osman that holds gas reserves of 16 trillion cubic feet. From the field, the pipeline will run to Herat and Kandahar province of Afghanistan, before entering Pakistan. In Pakistan, it will reach Multan via Quetta before ending at Fazilka (Punjab) in India.

“Pradhan said that TAPI project will play an important role in contributing to gas infrastructure project,” the statement said. Pradhan also met Minister of Mines and Petroleum of Afghanistan on the sidelines of the TAPI Steering Committee meeting.

He was accompanied by a high-level delegation including Oil Secretary Saurabh Chandra, High Commissioner of India in Islamabad, his ministry’s Joint Secretary (International Cooperation), as well as chairmen of state gas utility GAIL India and ONGC Videsh Ltd Managing Director. 
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