Air Liquide Denies Involvement in Trans-Caspian talks
French Air Liquide has comprehensively denied Turkmenistan’s official report published August 15 that it is involved in a consortium planning to build a gasline under the Caspian Sea.
The state journal Oil and Gas News reported that “a consortium, consisting of European companies Edison Technologies, Mannesmann, Air Liquide together with the Chinese Sinopec intends to build the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline."
It claimed that the mentioned companies said they were ready to implement the Trans-Caspian pipeline project. They were all at a conference at Avaza, where they met vice chairman of the cabinet of ministers Myratgeldi Meredov and the president's advisor on oil and gas issues Yagshigeldy Kakaev.
But Air Liquide told NGW August 21 that the company “is not involved in any negotiations with Turkmenistan nor part of any consortium, nor part of a project to build the Trans-Caspian gas pipeline.” The other companies had not responded at time of press.
“Five years older than the Nabucco project idea – which was replaced by the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) in 2013 – the Trans-Caspian pipeline option emerged in the early 1990s, but as of now, neither a consortium, nor Azeri and Turkmen governments have negotiated the issue seriously,” an industrial source in SGC and an Azeri official told NGW. “Even during president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov’s latest official visit to Baku in 2008, the issue was not on the agenda.
"The Turkmen government has not negotiated with SGC consortium – so far the only transit route – or potential western clients as of now,” he said.
Building the 300-km Trans-Caspian pipeline is a complicated issue, not only because Turkmenistan’s major gas deposits are in the east of the country, more than 800 km away from the Caspian; but also because of potential problems from Russia and Iran.
After 22 years of negotiations, Russia, Iran, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan signed August 12, 2018 a convention giving the Caspian Sea a ‘special legal status’.
The new convention’s Article 14 allows Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to use their undisputed waters to construct such a pipeline based on their bilateral agreements alone, but the project would still have to meet environmental standards – a condition that may enable Iran and Russia to continue challenging the Trans-Caspian project in future.
NGW learned from an Azeri government source that the approval of all five nations is needed for starting the project. He said that the huge variations in the seabed between the two countries – in some places it is a kilometre deep – as well as the 2,500 km of pipeline already on the seabed, mean the Trans-Caspian pipeline cannot be directly built and it could end up 400 km long, pushing the costs up significantly. A decade ago, the cost of building this project was estimated at $2bn.