Turkmenistan Opens Plant To Ship Power To Afghanistan

Turkmenistan has inaugurated a large gas-powered electricity plant that is expected to sell about three billion kilowatt-hours of power a year to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Associated Press reported.

The Saturday start of the plant near Mary in the Central Asian nation’s southeast was reported by state television.

The $1.2 billion plant is part of Turkmenistan’s efforts to diversify away from the natural gas exports on which the country’s economy overwhelmingly depends, the report said.

Turkmenistan’s economy suffered severely when Russia stopped buying its gas. Its diversification efforts include the May opening of a new port on the Caspian Sea, and it is building a pipeline to ship gas to new customers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, the AP report said. 

Meanwhile, AFP reported that Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow said the $1.2 billion expansion project would allow Turkmenistan to export an additional three billion kilowatt-hours per year to neighbouring countries.

An employee in the energy ministry, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed to AFP the cost of the expansion, carried out jointly by Turkish firm Calik Holding and General Electric.

Central Asian states are jockeying to supply electricity to potentially promising markets in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

One project called CASA 1000, backed in part by the United States, would see electricity produced at hydropower plants in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan sent to the two countries.

For Turkmenistan, which sits on the world’s fourth largest reserves of natural gas, electricity exports as well as trade and transit have assumed added importance as it struggles to find markets for its main export.

Planned gas pipelines to Europe and India have been slow to materialise despite years of negotiations plagued by political and economic doubts, while major buyer Russia ceased importing Turkmen gas in 2016.

Turkmenistan sliced a fifth off its manat currency in 2015 after the global hydrocarbons market dropped but black-market estimations of the manat’s value relative to the dollar are over six times lower than the official rate.

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