Authorities in Turkmenistan are breathing new life into a gas export pipeline project that went cold last year as countries in the region battled the coronavirus pandemic.
The TAPI project aims to deliver up to 33 billion cubic metres of gas from Turkmenistan via Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and is significant for Turkmenistan as it will open a new major export route to what is a fast-growing energy market.
According to the Turkmen Foreign Affairs Ministry, the country’s representative in the TAPI board, Muhammetmyrat Amanov, and Turkmen ambassador to Kabul, Khodzha Ovesov, met with Afghanistan's National Security Council deputy secretary Ebadullah Ebad to rubberstamp proposed measures to secure the 780-kilometre pipeline route in Afghanistan.
Turkmenistan currently delivers the bulk of its gas production to China via a three-line gas export pipeline across Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, with some volumes going to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom via an old route across Kazakhstan.
The route to China is understood to be running at almost maximum capacity, preventing Turkmenistan from increasing gas production at its highly prolific Galkynysh group of fields, while Gazprom prohibits Turkmenistan from transiting its gas to Europe.
The Turkmen Foreign Affairs Ministry said Afghanistan has agreed to implement a set of undisclosed measures until August this year that should provide sufficient security to restart the pipeline’s construction.
In February, Turkmenistan government officials invited a delegation of Afghan Islamic group the Taliban to Ashgabat, the Turkmen capital, in a bid to win their support for the pipeline project.
Of the total length of about 1840 kilometres, some 1600 kilometres of pipe will be laid in Afghanistan and Pakistan, with the pipeline terminating at the town of Fazilka in India near the border between Pakistan and India.
Turkmenistan had already completed its short segment of the gas pipeline and had hoped that it would be able to continue the construction work in Afghanistan in 2018.
However, work in Afghanistan on preparing the route for the planned pipeline halted in mid-2018 after unidentified gunmen killed five mine-clearance workers and kidnapped a sixth in the Kandahar province of the country.