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Monday, April 28, 2008

Trio sign up for Turkmen gas

25 April 2008 – Upstream OnLine – Representatives of Pakistan, India and Afghanistan signed a framework deal in Islamabad yesterday to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan, Pakistani media reported. The US-backed deal allows India to join a pact signed in 2002 to begin importing gas from Turkmenistan by 2015, Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper said in its online edition. The agreement, which will require the building of a pipeline projected to cost $7.6 billion, is seen as an alternative to the so-called Peace pipeline plan to bring Iranian gas to India and Pakistan via Afghanistan. The US is opposed to the Peace pipeline because it hopes to isolate Iran over its controversial nuclear programme. The newspaper said uncertainty about the Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline continued amid ongoing disputes between the partners about transportation fees and tariffs. The Turkmenistan pipeline will supply 90 million cubic feet of gas per day to the Dauletabad field to Fazilka on the Pakistan-India border. Under today’s deal, Afghanistan is proposing to tap 5 million cubic metres per day from the pipe during the first two years of operation and 14 MMcm per day thereafter. India and Pakistan will split the remaining capacity. However, Pakistan and India both reportedly said following the signing that they remained commited to the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline. "There is no pressure on us over the IPI and we will move forward on the project," Pakistani Oil Minister Khwaja Asif said at a press conference, Iran's official IRNA news agency said. Indian Energy Minister Morli Deora was quoted as saying: "We are still committed to the IPI". The pair said they would discuss the IPI pipe in talks in Islamabad today. Asia Development Bank director Peter Fedon said the bank had assisted in the signing of the Turkmenistan pipe deal. However, he reportedly would no say whether the bank would play a role in the Iranian pipe project.

Turkmen call for UN pipeline pact

22 April 2008  – Upstream OnLine – Turkmenistan's President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov has asked the United Nations to adopt a new convention guaranteeing pipeline security, state media has reported. The Caspian nation, which relies on Russia for most of its gas exports, is keen to diversify its export pipeline routes and is looking into a number of options, including a proposed pipeline via Afghanistan, long stalled due to security concerns. Turkmen state media reported that Berdymukhamedov discussed the security idea with visiting president of UN General Assembly Srgjan Kerim yesterday. "Turkmenistan is launching active discussions on a UN convention on international pipeline security," the state-owned Neutral Turkmenistan newspaper reported today. It gave no further details of the proposal and did not say whether the UN agreed with it, a Reuters report said. Military conflict in Afghanistan, which neighbours Turkmenistan, has long hampered efforts to embark on the pipeline designed to link up Turkmen gas with markets in India and Pakistan in a project estimated to cost up to $7 billion. Turkmenistan sells about 50 billion cubic metres of natural gas to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom annually and plans to boost exports in future. The West tentatively supports the Afghan route, but is actively lobbying for Turkmenistan to join another project - the Nabucco pipeline which is at the centre of Europe's plan to ease its dependence on Russia for gas supplies.

Gas exporters to meet in Tehran on April 28

MOSCOW, April 24 (RIA Novosti) - An alliance of the world's leading gas producers will hold a ministerial meeting in Tehran on April 28, the head of Russia's Gas Society said on Thursday. "The Gas Exporting Countries Forum will hold a ministerial meeting in Iran's capital on April 28, where the charter of the so-called gas 'OPEC' will be discussed," Valery Yazev said. He said there were two draft charters, a 'tough' one designed by Iran, and Russia's 'more delicate' version. Iran has proposed to regulate the functioning and principles of a gas equivalent of OPEC, while Russia's draft envisages fixing gas pricing mechanisms and gas transit routs. "We should build an alliance of gas producers to formulate fair trading rules," Yazev said. "Gas prices will not change, because they depend on the competitive situation with other energy prices," he said in an attempt to alleviate opponents' fears that a gas cartel will change radically the situation on the global markets. The idea of establishing a gas OPEC was put forward by Russian President Vladimir Putin and has always been supported by Iranian officials. The Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) first held a meeting in Tehran in 2001. The organization has not yet adopted a charter and lacks a strict membership system. However, it involves Venezuela, Iran, Libya, the UAE and Russia, and a number of other countries. Norway has the status of an observer.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Russia cancels Libya's $4.5 bln debt in exchange for contracts

TRIPOLI, April 17 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow wrote off on Thursday Libya's $4.5 billion debt in exchange for multi-billion dollar contracts for Russian companies. The cancelation of the debt, accrued on Soviet arms supplies, was one of over a dozen intergovernmental trade and cooperation agreements signed by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. After the signing ceremony, the outgoing Russian leader told reporters: "We are satisfied with the way we have resolved this problem. I am absolutely convinced that the scheme we have arrived at will benefit both the Russian and the Libyan economies, as well as the Russian and the Libyan people." Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin, who accompanied Putin on his visit to the North African state, told reporters that the size of Libya's debt to Russia had been brought down by $100 million from $4.6 billion to take into account Russian state bank VTB's debt to Libyan companies. The deals signed include a $3.5-billion contract for rail monopoly Russian Railways to build a 500-km (310-mile) section from the city of Sirte to Benghazi, Putin said. Kudrin said 70% of the equipment and steel products required for the project would, under the contract, be supplied by Russian companies. Another major deal was closed between Russian natural gas giant Gazprom and Libya's National Oil Corporation to set up a joint venture to engage in both upstream and downstream oil and gas operations. Kudrin said the Soviet-era debt had hampered bilateral economic cooperation, whereas now the hurdles would be removed, adding Russia's position in Libya had grown stronger. The two countries also signed a military cooperation agreement. The parties announced their intention to strengthen cooperation in the areas of national security and defense, particularly through closer ties between the bodies involved. Russia and Libya also agreed to collaborate in arms control measures, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament, to boost efforts to turn the Middle East into a zone free of weapons of mass destruction and to reduce military operations in the Mediterranean in order to make it a region of peace, stability and cooperation. Moscow and Tripoli pledged to coordinate their efforts to prevent and resolve armed conflicts in certain African regions and facilitate post-conflict revival. Libya's main weapons supplier during the Cold War, Russia is trying to regain its position in the country. Earlier reports said Russia had hoped to sign arms contracts worth some $3 billion with Libya, selling 12 of the latest Su-35 Flanker multi-role fighter and Tor-M2E short-range missile systems, and offering spare parts and maintenance services for Soviet-era military hardware. Libya's ties with the West have improved since the UN lifted sanctions against Libya in 2003 after Qaddafi announced he would halt the country's nuclear weapons program and later accepted responsibility for the 1998 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie in Scotland, agreeing to pay compensation to the victims' families. Russia's president arrived in Tripoli on Wednesday for a two-day visit. This evening he left for Sardinia, to meet with Italian incoming-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

OPEC President: No Need For More Crude Oil

April 08, 2008 - Dow Jones Newswires by Spencer Swartz - OPEC President Chakib Khelil said Tuesday the producer group has no plans to increase oil supply to tame prices that are flirting again with record highs, pinning high prices on a weaker U.S. dollar and financial speculators, not a shortage of supply. "The supply is there. We are (now) entering a period of lower demand...demand this year is going to be lower than expected," Khelil told reporters after being asked whether the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries might raise production. Khelil, who is also Algeria's oil minister, placed the blame for the current $100 a barrel oil prices on a weak U.S. economy that was undermining the U.S. dollar, which was giving financial speculators room to bid oil prices higher. "I think everyone agrees that the major concern is the economic crisis in the U.S. and the downfall of the U.S. dollar and its impact on the oil price," he said, adding he believed financial speculators were the driving force pushing oil prices higher. Several analysts in recent days, however, have said the role of speculators wasn't a big factor in recent high prices, noting speculators have actually been reducing their exposure to the oil market. OPEC is scheduled to hold its next output policy meeting in September, though it has been suggested the group could meet informally later this month on the sidelines of a producer-consumer meeting in Rome to discuss oil market developments. "There's a possibility that OPEC will informally meet (in Rome)," Khelil said, adding though the probability of that happening was low. Khelil also defended resource nationalism - a term usually associated with national governments strong-arming foreign energy companies into agreeing to less beneficial contractual terms, like higher taxes and a lower share of oil profits. Khelil didn't spell out what he meant by resource nationalism, but said as long as national oil companies and international firms find ways of cooperating, "resource nationalism is completely compatible with a well-functioning global oil market. "It can be a win-win situation" he told an oil conference here, adding recent discussions in oil consuming nations about resource nationalism "had not been very kind" to oil producers. He argued producers had every right to pursue their own national interests and utilize their oil and gas resources in whatever way they choose. Khelil's comments on oil supplies echoed the remarks of OPEC Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri earlier this week, who said during a visit to Iran that, "at the moment there is enough oil in the market and no need to change OPEC's output," according to AFP. U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in Washington Monday said OPEC has so far disregarded repeated requests to increase production but added he remained "optimistic" the 13-member producer group would heed his calls.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

EU Visiting Turkmenistan to Talk Energy

April 9, 2008 - Reuters - ALMATY, Kazakhstan - Senior EU officials will descend on Turkmenistan this week to promote cooperation with Central Asia, a region that is key to Europe's ambitions to diversify energy supplies and reduce its dependence on Russia. EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner and the French and Slovenian foreign ministers will meet their Central Asian counterparts in the Turkmen capital, Ashgabat, for talks Wednesday and Thursday on issues ranging from fuel to democracy. "Implementation [of EU strategy] is well under way and the EU is working with partners in the region on joint priorities papers detailing future action," the EU said in a statement ahead of the talks, likely to be held behind closed doors. Home to some of the world's biggest oil and gas reserves, the region -- which includes Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan -- is prone to authoritarian rule and most of its states have been criticized in the West over their records on democracy and human rights. Some rights activists and opposition politicians have accused the West of putting energy above democracy in their Central Asia contacts, a charge that Western governments have denied.

Monday, April 07, 2008

India to Produce Gas in Turkmenistan, Deliver It by Trans-Afghan Pipeline

turkmenistan 04.07.2008 - RZD Partner News - India will produce natural gas in Turkmenistan and deliver it by the Trans-Afghan pipeline in line with a memorandum of mutual understanding the Turkmen Oil, Gas and Natural Resources Ministry and the Indian Oil and Gas Ministry signed on Saturday, Itar-Tass reports. The memorandum was signed during the Ashgabat visit of Indian Vice-President Hamid Ansari. On Sunday he will visit the largest gas deposit of Turkmenistan, Dovletabad, the source of the future Trans-Afghan pipeline, the Turkmen governmental press service said. “The pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India will be a weighty contribution to the positive cooperation on this continent,” Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow told Ansari. The sides named agriculture, textile and pharmaceutical industries amongst cooperation priorities. Berdimuhamedow said that the bilateral trade grew by nearly ten times in 2006-2007.

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