China, Turkmenistan agree to boost planned gas sales

ASHGABAT, Aug 29 - Turkmenistan will sell 40 billion cubic metres (bcm) of natural gas a year to China through a planned pipeline instead of the previously agreed 30 bcm, the leaders of the two countries said on Friday.

The link, being built by China, Turkmenistan and its Central Asian neighbours Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, will have total annual capacity of 40 bcm. Kazakhstan has said it will reserve 10 bcm for its own needs.

Visiting Chinese leader Hu Jintao met Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov on Friday. Earlier this month, Berdymukhamedov offered to boost the planned sales volume through the link which is due to be completed in late 2009.

"The volume of shipments to China will be 40 billion cubic metres, not 30 billion cubic metres as planned earlier," Berdymukhamedov said after the meeting.

The two leaders did not say how this would affect Kazakhstan's plans to use some of the pipeline capacity.

"We will speed up the work on the pipeline," said Hu.

Turkmenistan currently sells most of its gas, about 50 bcm a year, to Russia's Gazprom and analysts have questioned its ability to boost exports significantly.

Russia, keen to maintain control over Central Asian gas flows, has offered to buy Turkmen gas at the European price next year and build a new pipeline along the Caspian to take in more Turkmen gas.

A group of Russian officials was in Ashgabat on the same day preparing for Saturday's session of a bilateral economic cooperation commission.

Turkmenistan earlier estimated its reserves at more than 20 trillion cubic metres (tcm), while BP put them at 2.9 tcm in its annual statistical review.


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