Monday, September 14, 2009

More on Turkmenistan and gas sales

A couple of days ago I was writing of the promise inherent in a meeting between the Turkmen President, Gerbanguly Berdymukhamedov and President Medvedev of Russsia. Well the meeting has now taken place, and there was a story in the Moscow Times that the meeting had not gone well. However, before writing this post I went to dinner, and now it seems that story has quietly disappeared. Instead there is now a story in The Daily Star that reports that the meeting went well, and that the two leaders “clinked champagne glasses.”

As I mentioned in Friday’s post the meeting included the end of the Silk Way Race, which is now over. The dispute may not be, since, although stories talked of the dispute being resolved:
There were also signs that the sides had reached a breakthrough on the export row that would allow stalled talks to go forward. Berdymukhamedov said all technical problems relating to the blast had been fixed, and a top Kremlin aide said that Turkmenistan and Gazprom would hold a meeting within days to discuss “further cooperation in the gas sphere,” Russia’s Interfax news agency reported.
It appears that the agreement is only to continue talks, and not to resume gas shipments.

Now at the moment Turkmenistan is extracting gas and storing it, since the Russians aren’t accepting it into their pipelines, but that may be a bit of a dangerous game for Gazprom, given that the Chinese pipeline may be ready to receive shipments before the end of the year. At the continuation of discussions, but now in Kenderly, Kazakhstan, the Turkmen President mentioned all the commitments, but the one to Russia.
Berdimuhamedov noted his country would begin operating a gas pipeline to China by the end of 2009 with the capacity to pump some 1.6 trillion cubic feet of gas per year. Meanwhile, he emphasized the importance of the proposed Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) while a rival project from Iran moves forward in the region.

On Nabucco, the natural gas project for Europe, Berdimuhamedov said his country was ready to make pledges in support of the $10.3 billion pipeline.
Now of these the Nabucco continues on life support since there is not yet enough gas committed to be supplied to justify construction, despite an agreed market for sales into Western Europe. There is already a crude oil pipeline in place, the Baku-Tbilisi- Ceyhan pipeline, and the West would like a similar natural gas equivalent, but it keeps running into obstacles. Azerbaijan has doubled its commitment to the line, with supplies proposed from the Shah Deniz field.
Production at Azerbaijan’s giant Shah Deniz natural gas field has risen to 24 million cubic meters (847 million cu ft) daily, Azerbaijani and Russian news sources reported May 4. In 2008, the daily output averaged 22 million cubic meters (777 million cu ft).

Field operator BP said that production increased despite ongoing drilling, the Regnum news agency reported. BP is preparing for a second production phase when annual output is expected to reach 12 billion cubic meters (423 billion cu ft) and, later, 20 billion cubic meters (706 billion cu ft)
Yet this is still not enough to make the pipeline work – it needs the gas from Turkmenistan.

The TAPI pipeline on the other hand would feed natural gas into downstream economies that are desperate for natural gas supplies. Afghanistan is the first of these, and energy shortages are rarely discussed as one of the problems of their economy, but with only 10 - 12% of the populace having access to electricity and with only limited natural gas resources (perhaps enough for a 100 megawatt power station), the country needs to import natural gas in large volumes. The question is, as always, from where? Turkmenistan is a logical place.

Proposed pipeline from Turkmenistan to India

But the route of the pipeline, while agreed, does not end up delivering gas without a pipeline being installed, and though the project has been nearly ready to start since 2003, with a projected construction time of 3-years, there has yet to be a significant physical start.

Pakistan, while getting help for construction of hydro-electrical projects is still desperate for help with natural gas and other energy fuels. But so far there is no pipeline to help.

Looking at it from Turkmenistan’s point of view the pipeline to China will soon open and revenues can come from thus new customer. The price will be at double the price China has been paying for its own gas.
Chinese wellhead prices at $3.5 to $4 per million British thermal units (mmBtu) are now comparable with US onshore gas prices and spot LNG cargoes, but still half of term LNG supplies signed last year for delivery beyond 2012, estimated at $8-$10.

While the cheapness of gas has made it a favoured choice for power plants compared to fuel oil, it has done little to encourage import deals or drilling during a near four-fold rise in demand in the last decade. By raising prices, Beijing will provide an incentive to increase supplies while gradually getting industries used to paying the market rate for raw materials, part of Beijing’s drive for a greener economy and prominent role in global climate talks.

. . . . . Turkmenistan gas will be priced at 2 yuan per cubic metre ($8 per kcf) at the border point in Khorgos, sharply above the average 0.79 yuan for local gas flowing in China’s flagship West-East pipeline, China’s leading financial magazine Caijing reported in March.
Chinese demand is anticipated to grow from a current 7.3 bcf/day to 18 bcf/day by 2020, with 2.9 bcf coming from the new pipeline by 2011.

While this may be an expensive price for China to pay, it will certainly relieve Turkmenistan of the old option that was to either provide natural gas to Russia, or starve, and will give it more income until other options (such as TAPI or selling natural gas to Iran) become a reality.