New plan for getting Turkmen gas to Europe – pipe it to Pakistan and ship it as LNG

New plan for getting Turkmen gas to Europe – pipe it to Pakistan and ship it as LNG
Workable plan? Turkmen gas would reach Europe in tankers that would load up on Pakistan's Arabian Sea coast. / NLNG
By Will Conroy May 23, 2024

Pakistan and Turkmenistan are discussing a new idea for how to get Turkmen gas to Europe—pipe it to Pakistan, turn it into liquefied natural gas (LNG) and ship it.

Petroleum Minister of Pakistan Musadik Malik outlined the proposal on May 23, while announcing that Pakistan and Turkmenistan have decided that they will independently finance the completion of the multi-billion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline given the international community’s reluctance to recognise Afghanistan’s Taliban administration—a situation that has stalled efforts to secure multilateral foreign funding.

Speaking at an energy symposium, Malik—as reported by local press—remarked: “Turkmenistan, rich in gas reserves and currently only selling to China, has considered exporting its gas to Europe via an LNG train.”

An LNG “train” is otherwise known as a liquefaction plant that supercools gas into a liquid that can be loaded on to ocean-going tankers.

If Pakistan and landlocked Turkmenistan were to build such a facility, it would presumably be constructed at a site on Pakistan’s Arabian Sea coast. A major problem in operating TAPI would, howver, be guaranteeing security for the infrastructure given the various militant and terrorist groups present in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Numerous projects devised to deliver infrastructure that would make piping Turkmen gas to Europe feasible have never moved ahead. These projects have usually focused on building a pipeline link across the Caspian Sea to Azerbaijan. Analysts have speculated that Russia, which faces Turkmenistan across the sea, has leant on Turkmenistan not to pursue such a project, given the competition Turkmen gas could pose to Russian gas, such as with sales to Azerbaijan’s neighbour Turkey and onward distribution to further export markets using re-exports arranged with Turkey.

In the search for a viable plan to get Turkmen gas to Europe, there have also been proposals to involve Iran in gas swaps, meaning Turkmen gas would be delivered to Iran in return for Iran delivering Iranian gas to neighbouring Turkey, from where it could be sent by pipeline to European markets. However, any potential complications with sanctions would first have to be addressed.

Turkmenistan’s gas reserves are usually estimated as the fifth or sixth biggest in the world.

At the symposium, Malik also reportedly said that Pakistan would like to buy gas from neighbouring Iran but, as a poor country, could not afford to incur sanctions.