Turkmenistan, which has the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves, plans to redirect its exports from Russia to the European Union (EU) by 2019. The EU also wants to lower its natural gas consumption using Russian imports.
Currently, the EU receives one-third of its natural gas from Russia. Since Russia’s invasion of Crimea and its interventions in Ukraine, the EU has been planning to cut its reliance on Russian gas.
“For Turkmenistan it is very important to diversify its export options, while for the EU it is very important to diversify its imports,” said European Commission Vice President Maros Sefcovic. He is overseeing the EU plan to diminish Russia’s natural gas dominance by creating a single market of connecting member countries. Meetings have been held over the years to plan for a pipeline that would be built under the Caspian Sea, but it has been stalled for ecological, political and financial reasons. However, last year Turkey and Turkmenistan signed an agreement to send gas to the proposed pipeline. It would also take gas from Azerbaijian’s source in the Caspian Sea.
Energy ministers of Turkey, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan met recently to discuss a plan for the direction of the pipeline. Also attending was the Deputy Prime Minister of Turkmenistan, which will have to construct a pipeline under the Caspian Sea. All aspects of the plan were thoroughly discussed, and it is projected the pipeline would be completed by 2018 for deliveries to start in 2019.
A dispute over the ownership of the area, however, has existed involving Russia, Iran, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. Also, Russia and Iran have complained that the pipeline may damage the ecology of the sea.
“There are technologies which are reliable from that point of view,” Sefcovic stated.