‘New chapter’ as work starts on Afghan leg of TAPI pipeline

Work on the Afghan leg of the 1,814 km, $8bn TAPI natural gas pipeline that will eventually link energy-rich Turkmenistan  to Pakistan and India began last week after an opening ceremony in the province of Herat attended by senior politicians including the  presidents of Turkmenistan  Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov and his Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.
The new pipeline will have an annual capacity 33 bn m³ and will pump gas from Turkmenistan’s giant Galkynysh field, helping reduce the Central Asian country’s  dependence on China and Russia for export revenues.
It is anticipated that India and Pakistan will each buy  around 14bn m³  of the gas and Afghanistan the rest. Kabul is expected to earn up to $500m in annual  transit duties from the  project, whose construction could also create as many as 25,000 jobs. “A new chapter of economic growth and regional connectivity starts right here in the economic and cultural hub of Afghanistan,” Ghani tweeted on his arrival in Herat.
Progress on the project has continued despite a deterioration in relations between the participating countries. Pakistan stands accused  of not doing enough to stop terrorist groups from using its soil for attacks, a charge which it denies; but while the pipeline runs through several districts of southwestern Afghanistan controlled or heavily influenced by the  Taliban,  a spokesman for the insurgent group has said that it supports the project and will ensure the pipeline’s protection.
With the EU increasingly looking towards the gas fields of the Caspian Sea to wean its member states off Russian oil and gas, the next two decades should see Turkmenistan increasingly come into its own as an energy exporter, although much will depend on plans for a  Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline  that would connect Turkmenbashi to Baku and transport gas from  Galknysh to Europe via Turkey and the Trans-Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), and then the  Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP).
Although  a long-running dispute about the legal status of the Caspian Sea was finally settled at a meeting of the the foreign ministers of the five littoral Caspian states (Azerbaijan, Russia, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Iran) in Moscow last December, both Russia and possibly Iran are expected to continue their opposition to the new underwater pipeline. 

Source: rferl