Tajik Deputy Energy and Water Resources Minister Jamshed Shoimzoda confirmed on January 30 that work on the Tajik stretch of the Central Asia-China Gas Pipeline’s (CACGP's) Line-D has resumed. There were reports last year that the CNPC subsidiary working on the project had started construction work on Line-D in Tajikistan, but no official statements regarding the status of the pipeline were made back then.
China’s once insatiable appetite for Central Asian gas drove the project over the past six years. Today, over half of China’s natural gas imports come via the expanding array of pipelines that span Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.
But the project was halted earlier in 2017 while work on the Uzbek section of the pipeline was postponed indefinitely. The moves were widely taken as China giving up on the project; however, the resumption of work on the Tajik section shows that China is still committed to launching Line-D.
With a length of 1,000 kilometres, Line-D is planned as the shortest branch of the CACGP network. It is to have a full capacity of 30bn cubic metres (cm) of natural gas per year and will run from Turkmenistan's giant gas fields all the way to the Chinese border through Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The other three lines take a northeastern route through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Work on Line-D kicked off in September 2015 and was originally scheduled to wrap up in 2020.
CNPC agreed to invest over $800mn in the development of the 200km Uzbek stretch, and as much as $3.7bn in the 410km Tajik section, which runs across the country’s mountainous northwestern regions. The route has posed challenges for planners and engineers, triggering demands for more investment. The Kyrgyz stretch is to run for 215km between the Tajik and Chinese borders.
Construction are being carried out by CNPC’s subsidiary, the Trans-Tajik Gas Pipeline Company, and state-owned Tajiktransgaz.
Most gas via Line-D would originate from Turkmenistan, raising total Turkmen gas exports to China to 65bn cm; the country already exports most of its gas to China via lines A, B and C. That would come as a welcome development for the Turkmen economy, which has been hit by low oil and gas prices. Moreover, Turkmenistan finds itself in a gas dispute with Iran and has not exported gas to Russia since 2016.
Line-D is not the only CNPC venture in Tajikistan. It stands as one of the three foreign companies with a stake in the exploration of the barely known Bokhtar field. Bokhtar, covering an area of around 35,000 square kilometres, is seen as potentially transformational for Tajikistan, with the possibility to put the country on a par with countries like Kazakhstan or Russia in terms of oil and gas reserves per capita. In 2012, Tethys revealed that the field, based on an independent audit carried out by US-based Gustavson Associates, held estimated gross “unrisked” mean recoverable resources of 27.5bn barrels of oil equivalent (boe).