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Turkmenistan: Opportunities in Diversification

This leading Caspian gas exporter with massive untapped oil and gas potential is now open for business after years of eccentric isolation—and the playing field is wide, wide open.

Turkmenistan is hoping to lure more foreign companies in to explore and develop oil and gas resources, and to this end earlier this month Turkmen officials spent two days in Dubai selling their potential.

What is that potential? The fourth largest natural gas reserves in the world (estimated at around 265 trillion cubic feet) and proven oil reserves of around 600 million barrels. The country has 153 gas fields (142 onshore and 11 offshore), 82 gas condensate fields, and 38 oil fields.

Most of these proven reserves are in the South Caspian Basin and the western Garashyzlyk onshore area. But there is also unexplored potential in Turkmenistan’s area of the Caspian Sea, which the government believes contains over 80 billion barrels of oil. They need to boost exploration and production, which peaked at 213,000 bbl/d in 2004 and then declined slightly to about 202,000 bbl/d in 2010. Half of this production feeds the domestic market.

The problem with Caspian Sea exploration is that some of this unexplored territory is disputed by Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Russia and Iran.

Oil infrastructure is also a problem: There are no international oil pipelines to get product to market with the exception of a small pipeline that runs from Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan, which is now largely used to import Uzbek crude. Turkmenistan can also export small volumes across the Caspian to Azerbaijan and Russia.

Existing Turkmen crude is also of a poor quality, so no one’s really rushing to get their hands on these exports.


Click to enlarge.

Natural Gas Focus

Turkmenistan’s oil potential has been overshadowed, however, by its stronger focus on the natural gas sector.   

A recent independent audit confirmed that Turkmenistan’s supergiant Galkynysh gas field is the second-largest reserve in the world—rivaled only by the South Pars gas field, shared by Qatar and Iran. And production at this field is about to begin—in June or July. The Galkynysh field has between 13.1 trillion and 21.2 trillion cubic meters of natural gas.

Aside from Galkynysh, Turkmenistan has 10 gas fields with over 3.5 trillion cubic feet each. These are mostly in the Amu Darya Basin (southeast), the…




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