Turkmen gas is on the way… maybe
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images The European Union just took what it hopes will be a crucial step toward escaping its dependence on Russian natural gas. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Financial Times that Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (left) promised last week to supply the EU with 10 billion cubic meters of gas per ...
JOHN THYS/AFP/Getty Images
The European Union just took what it hopes will be a crucial step toward escaping its dependence on Russian natural gas.
EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner told the Financial Times that Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov (left) promised last week to supply the EU with 10 billion cubic meters of gas per year in addition to what it is already supplying to Russia and China. The EU has been pushing hard for a deal like this ever since the death of Turkmenistan’s former leader, the lunatic isolationist Saparmurat Niyazov.
The only problem is, no one is exactly sure how they’re going to get the gas to Europe:
There were three short-term options, Mrs Ferrero-Waldner said. One would be to close a 60km gap between Azeri and Turkmen offshore installations with a mini-pipeline. Another would be to build an onshore link to Kazakhstan, to connect with a route to Azerbaijan. The third would be to compress the gas into liquid form and take it by tanker across the sea.
The hope is that Turkmen gas fields can eventually supply the proposed Nabucco pipeline across Turkey. Unfortunately, the first leg of the pipeline won’t be operational until at least 2013. (China, on the other hand, will have its own Turkmen pipeline up and running by next year.)
According to Eurasianet, the Russian response has been muted, with analysts pointing out that given Europe’s 500 bcm yearly gas needs, 10 bcm is small potatoes:
For example, the Rosbalt news agency quoted Alexander Shtok, a Moscow economic analyst, as asserting that EU officials had sought a greater commitment from Berdymukhamedov. Thus, the EU mission to Ashgabat was “unsuccessful,” Shtok contended. Other experts, citing Turkmenistan’s tangled involvement in the Russian-sponsored Prikaspiisky pipeline, say that Berdymukhamedov can be quick to agree on a deal, but is capable of stalling when it comes to implementation.
Ferrero-Waldner acknowledged that the commitment was not a “vast quantity” but described it as a “very important first step.” Given that most of Turkmenistan’s reserves have not been developed, and those that have been are under contract until 2028, a lot more big steps are going to be needed if Europe plans to break its Russian gas habit.
Though, if it doesn’t work out, there’s always Iran.
Joshua Keating is a former associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating
More from Foreign Policy
America Is a Heartbeat Away From a War It Could Lose
Global war is neither a theoretical contingency nor the fever dream of hawks and militarists.
The West’s Incoherent Critique of Israel’s Gaza Strategy
The reality of fighting Hamas in Gaza makes this war terrible one way or another.
Biden Owns the Israel-Palestine Conflict Now
In tying Washington to Israel’s war in Gaza, the U.S. president now shares responsibility for the broader conflict’s fate.
Taiwan’s Room to Maneuver Shrinks as Biden and Xi Meet
As the latest crisis in the straits wraps up, Taipei is on the back foot.