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Turkmenistan news roundup

Turkmenistan holds the fourth largest natural gas reserves on the planet, plus substantial quantities of oil, making it a major player in the global trade of hydrocarbons. 

Recent weeks have seen the Central Asian country unveil plans to boost production of natural gas, publish its latest figures on gas exportation, and strike a number of significant energy deals with South Korea. Western Europe is another substantial market for Turkmenistan's natural gas, and the country was this week hailed as a promising and reliable partner by Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer.

Turkmen gas exports climb in Q1

New figures from the Turkmen oil and gas ministry reveal natural gas exports surged by 6.5 per cent year on year in the first quarter of 2015, to 11.7 billion cubic metres.

In total, the country produced 21.5 billion cubic metres of gas in the three months to March, representing an increase of five per cent on the corresponding quarter in 2014.

Recent years have seen China overtake Russia as the biggest buyer of gas from Turkmenistan, importing an annual total of between 30 billion and 35 billion cubic metres. By contrast, Russia this year unveiled plans to slash Turkmen gas imports to four billion cubic metres, down from 11 billion in 2014. Iran is another customer, although the western Asian nation only imports small quantities of natural gas from Turkmenistan.

Plans to increase gas production unveiled

In a separate release, the oil and gas ministry announced plans to raise natural gas production to 83.8 billion cubic metres this year, with more than half - 48 billion cubic metres - of this volume to be exported.

The statement explained that Turkmenistan is able to sign long-term contracts for the stable supply of energy resources thanks to its powerful energy and fuel sector. It currently has agreements in place on gas pipes running to China, Iran and Russia.

The country's hydrocarbon reserves - onshore and in the Turkmen section of the Caspian Sea - are estimated to stand at 71.2 billion metric tons of oil equivalent, with 70 per cent of this volume made up of gaseous hydrocarbon resources.

South Korea and Turkmenistan strike $13 billion plant deal

The government of South Korea has announced its support for a $13 billion deal involving the construction of a natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant and the modernisation of key oil facilities in Turkmenistan.

A summit between South Korean President Park Geun-hye and her Turkmen counterpart Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov saw the countries reach eight agreements on issues such as double taxation, science and technology cooperation, and financial collaboration, reports Business Korea.

A consortium of LG International and Hyundai Engineering will build the natural GTL plant in collaboration with the oil and gas ministry in a deal worth around $4 billion, while the partners will also work together to upgrade a refinery in Turkmenbashi.

In a statement, the South Korean government said: "The agreements will be the basis for trade and investment expansion between the countries, whilst Turkmenistan is keeping a high annual economic growth rate of ten per cent for the last five years."

China 'to need gas from both Turkmenistan and Russia'

The Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy says China's growing demand for natural gas will require the world's largest economy to import from both Russia and Turkmenistan.

Speaking to Central Asian news agency Trend, Tao Wang - an expert from the US-based thinktank - said China's economy and energy transition will lead to a surge in demand for natural gas over the coming decades, potentially doubling by 2030.

"Surely China will need different sources of gas imports to ensure the security of supply and economic benefits, including pipeline gas from Central Asia and Russia, and also LNG imports from other sources," he predicted.

All of the East Asian gas importers - including China, Japan and South Korea - are always looking to secure reliable and affordable supplies of natural gas, Mr Wang added.

Figures from BP show that China used 161.6 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2013 - a 10.8 per cent increase on 2012.

Austria praises Turkmenistan as gas supplier

Austrian Federal President Heinz Fischer has dubbed Turkmenistan a promising and reliable partner capable of supplying the western European nation with stable energy.

According to Trend, Mr Fischer claimed European countries have great interest in securing natural gas supplies from Turkmenistan and said the energy sector plays a major role in the collaboration between the EU and Central Asian states.

"Today, Austria can be an example of the effective use of alternative energy sources, including wind [and] solar," the president was quoted by Trend as saying. 

"However, the country meets two-thirds of its energy needs through gas. Austria supports the projects ensuring diversification and de-politicisation of gas routes."

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