Energy-rich Turkmenistan signed a deal to boost its annual delivery of natural gas supplies to China to 40 billion cubic meters, an increase of 10 billion cubic meters over the previously agreed amount.
Under Friday’s deal, China could start receiving gas deliveries from the Central Asian nation by late next year.
Construction of a pipeline that is meant to eventually stretch from Turkmenistan to China’s Xinjiang region via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is scheduled for completion next year.
Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) visited Turkmenistan to seal the agreement with his Turkmen counterpart, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, at a ceremony in the capital.
“Our joint efforts are clearly visible in the transnational pipeline joining Turkmenistan with China along the banks of the Amu Darya River, where Turkmen specialists have discovered a gigantic oil and gas field,” Berdymukhamedov said.
Hu said every effort would be made to speed up the pace of construction work on the pipeline.
China National Petroleum Corp (中石油) last year won the license to explore and develop the Bagtyarlyk field near the Turkmen border with Uzbekistan, which the government estimates could hold up to 1.3 trillion cubic meters of gas.
Last year, Turkmenistan, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement to build a gas pipeline along the Caspian coast with an annual capacity for 20 billion cubic meters. Last month, Berdymukhamedov and the head of gas monopoly OAO Gazprom, Alexei Miller, agreed to increase capacity to 30 billion cubic meters.
The US and the EU have pushed for building a trans-Caspian pipeline as well, which would carry Turkmen natural gas to Azerbaijan, Turkey and then to Western markets bypassing Russia.
Official figures say that Turkmenistan produces about 70 billion cubic meters of gas annually. It exports 50 billion cubic meters per year to Russian under a 25-year contract. An additional 8 billion cubic meters are sold annually to Iran.
Turkmenistan estimates its gas reserves at more than 20 trillion cubic meters, but it has never provided independent verification.
The BP World Energy Statistics puts Turkmen gas reserves at about 2.9 trillion cubic meters, ranking them as the 13th-largest in the world.