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Central Asia news roundup

In Central Asia, the oil and gas industry is in an interesting position. Several new opportunities have opened up in Turkmenistan thanks to the discovery of a new reserve of natural gas, which could provide a boost to the nation's industry. Meanwhile, international relations are also impacting this particular sector.

Deals between Kazakhstan and Iran, and Turkmenistan and Afghanistan have made the region a little more complicated. However, its oil and gas reserves are making it a lucrative region, particularly when it comes to supplying Europe. Read on for the latest headlines from Central Asia's oil and gas industry.


New gas field discovered in Karakum Desert

A new source of natural gas has been discovered in Turkmenistan after exploration work was undertaken in the Bagley-1 area of the Karakum Desert, which is located in the region of Mary in the south-east of the country. The site is actually only a few dozen km away from Galkynysh field, which is one of the country's largest gas reserves.

The new gas was uncovered at a depth of 4.69 km, and the operational column was omitted 230 m above that. It is thought that the site could have the capacity to produce 1.5 million cubic m of the resource each day once a facility is set up.

The Turkmen government is continuing to push for more research in the area, as it is thought that there could be many more reserves yet to be unlocked. Once tests on this new field have been completed, the drilling rig will be moved to the nearby Minar-3 site for further exploration.


Turkmenistan key to energy diversity, says Bulgarian PM

Boyko Borisov, prime minister of Bulgaria, has stated that Turkmenistan and its extensive hydrocarbon reserves are key to energy diversification in Europe. He has also claimed that gas from Turkmenistan will allow for greater energy security in Europe.

Specifically, prime minister Borisov was referring to the Trans-Caspian pipeline that will transfer Turkmen gas to Azerbaijan. From there, the resource will be transported to European countries, including Bulgaria, via Turkey and Greece.

Because of this link to Turkmenistan via the pipeline, Bulgaria is looking to take more of an active interest in the nation's oil and gas reserves. Mr Borisov claimed Bulgarian companies were interested in participating in exploration for hydrocarbon reserves in Turkmenistan, and extracting anything they discover.


LNG supplied to Afghanistan at preferential prices

The government of Turkmenistan has announced that it is supplying liquefied natural gas (LNG) to neighbouring Afghanistan at preferential prices as part of a drive to increase cooperation between the two nations. This comes at a time when both countries are looking to work together to construct the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline.

"The practical implementation of the transnational energy project will become a real contribution to the formation of modern architecture of global energy security and at the same time will directly contribute to solving actual social problems in neighboring Afghanistan," said the government in a statement.

Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov, Turkmenistan's president, visited Afghanistan on August 27th. It is thought that he discussed these issues, as well as the construction of medical and educational buildings in Afghanistan.


Lukoil sells stake in Kazakh oil producer

Russian oil firm Lukoil has just announced a historic deal, selling its stake in Caspian Investments - a Kazakh oil producer - to its Chinese rival Sinopec. Lukoil is still the largest Russian investor in Kazakhstan, as it is involved with two of the nation's oil fields as well as being a member of the Caspian Pipeline Consortium.

In return for its 50 per cent stake in Caspian Investments, Lukoil received $1 billion from Sinopec. The producer has extracted over 95 million barrels of oil and more than 28 million cubic m of natural gas over the last ten years, as it is involved in five different fields throughout Kazakhstan.


Kazakhstan-Iran oil swap scheme to resume

From 1997 to 2009, Kazakhstan and Iran operated under an arrangement whereby Kazakh crude oil would be delivered to the Iranian port of Neka to be used in its northern refineries. Iran would then transport the same amount of oil to countries that Kazakhstan did not have easy access to, in return for a transit fee.

This enabled Kazakhstan to easily trade with countries it did not have direct access to, while it is estimated that Iran made around $880 million overall from the scheme. It was discontinued in 2009, but a delegation from the Kazakh oil industry has visited Iran in an attempt to restart it.
Iran's minister of petroleum, Bijan Namdar Zangeneh, has said that Iran is also interested in restarting this arrangement. Neka currently has the capacity to restore up to 500,000 barrels of crude per day if it is connected up to Kazakh pipelines, or 200,000 without this step.

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