Another Turkmen Pipe Mystery

Turkmenistan has been purchasing a lot of pipeline segments for the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) natural-gas pipeline project lately.

Which is interesting, because the head of the TAPI Pipeline Company said in February 2018 that the Turkmen section, which runs more than 200 kilometers, was completed.

But in November, Turkmen state media reported that Saudi Arabia's Global Pipe Company had started deliveries of 35 kilometers of pipeline for TAPI, and another pro-government website reported that once the cargo arrives at a train station in eastern Turkmenistan the "steel pipes are immediately transported to construction sites for assembly."

Turkmen officials never explained the need for this additional length of pipeline.

An April 2 report from the Russian website said the Chelyabinsk Pipe Rolling Plant had won a tender to supply 214 kilometers of pipe for the TAPI pipeline.

According to the report, Turkmen state company Turkmengaz announced the Chelyabinsk plant as the winner of the contract, worth some $219 million. Russia's Sberbank approved the letter of credit for the deal.

Turkmengaz is the consortium leader for the TAPI project, despite having no experience with projects outside Turkmenistan.

As consortium leader, Turkmengaz would be announcing tenders for the project, including the Afghan, Pakistani, and Indian sections. The Oil and Gas of Turkmenistan website has no information on the results of this tender with the Chelyabinsk plant.

So what are the new pipeline sections for?

An April 2 report from the Turkmen state website Golden Age says President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov held a meeting with officials on March 20 to discuss preparations for an upcoming gas congress in Turkmenistan.

It says officials discussed various energy sector projects, and that TAPI was discussed: "Currently, construction of the 214-kilometer Turkmen section of the pipeline is being finished."

So according to a state website, the pipeline is not finished. And the pipeline sections from the Chelyabinsk plant are coincidentally just enough to construct the whole length of Turkmenistan's section of the TAPI pipeline.

So there is another mystery involving the TAPI pipeline: Is the Turkmen section really complete? Has anything even been built? What happened to the 35 kilometers of pipeline the Saudi company delivered?

Maybe the next tender, or pipe delivery, will shed some light on TAPI progress. Or not.

Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.