Turkmenistan embraced on Wednesday (23 December) a $2.5 billion gas pipeline project that connects abundant gas fields in the Caspian Sea, thus potentially increasing Europe’s energy security options. The 800-kilometre long pipeline could link the Central Asian economy, which is home to the world’s fourth biggest gas reserves, with Western markets. Turkmenistan’s President, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, said that “with the completion of the East-West pipeline, cooperation with our European partners acquires a new quality” when speaking at the opening ceremony at the Belek compressor station.
The strategic pipeline connecting East and West funneling gas through the Caspian region would fit into a larger plan of the EU, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey to build infrastructure to transfer more energy to the ‘Old Continent’. The price tag for the Trans-Caspian pipeline is expected to reach up to $5 billion and it could funnel up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas yearly in the direction of Europe. The project is highly anticipated by the European Union, which hopes that the pipeline could help decrease the Union’s dependence on Russian energy supplies. Maros Sefcovic, EU’s energy chief, said during his May visit to Ashgabat that the pipeline might be finished by the end of 2019, although it was at that time unclear who would build it.
On Wednesday, Turkmen President, however, hailed the project as an East-West link being built “by us on our own thanks to the strength of our national companies” adding that “this clearly demonstrates our economic and financial potential and the capacity of our country”. Turkmenistan has so far been largely without sufficient infrastructure needed to market its natural wealth. As a result, it has been left dependent on pipelines connecting it to Russia and China with the latter buying about 90 percent of its natural gas. The EU recognized the country’s potential a long time ago and it previously tried to involve the country in the EU’s energy agenda also via the long-planned Nabucco pipeline.