By Aygul Hanova
China’s energy demand from Central Asia is growing. While China’s natural gas consumption was 131.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, it is forecasted to increase to 375 bcm by 2020. This meant that natural gas demand of China is an opportunity for Central Asian gas suppliers to diversify their routes and for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to receive transit benefits. However, China ’s open policy for all gas corridors coming from Central Asia also means that it could potentially initiate competition among players within these proposed gas pipeline routes.
In June China asserted that it is keen to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Tajikistan. This framework has been discussed on bilateral meetings between Afghanistan and China. However, there was not yet agreement on this project with Turkmenistan, which is already working with Afghanistan on TAPI gas pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). It should be reminded that TAPI is a project backed by US and weakened by security issues on its Afghanistan-Pakistan and Pakistan-India part, while Chinese proposal could offer a safer alternative in case transit through Afghanistan and Tajikistan ensures stable grounds for supplies of Turkmen gas to China.
On August meeting of intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation of China and Kyrgyzstan, both sides indicated that they are determined to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. As the counterparts agreed Kyrgyzstan-China part of the proposed project is to be speeded up. Thus Kyrgyzstan could be a part of the larger energy projects in Central Asia, while also benefiting from transit and supplies of Turkmen natural gas. The project is due to Turkmenistan’s readiness to cooperate. Meanwhile, by the end of August, Kyrgyzstan is to finalize its negotiations of natural gas supplies from Kazakhstan, and interested by Azerbaijan to construct an oil refinery.
Kazakhstan-China gas pipeline is under construction, while China also imports natural gas from Turkmenistan-China pipeline which runs through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Many scenarios of pipeline routes within Central Asia are proposed due to China’s demand of natural gas. In the meantime, Turkmenistan is speeding up negotiations to supply gas to the West. States’ priorities, geopolitical circumstances and security settings are to continue defining the future of all the proposed projects.