Gas-rich Turkmenistan has inaugurated a refurbished and expanded Soviet-era power plant that it hopes will help it boost exports to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov on September 8 attended ceremonies for the opening of the $1.2 billion electricity plant near the Central Asian country’s southeastern region of Mary.
Berdymukhammedov said capacities at the rebuilt plant will allow the country to export an additional 3 billion kilowatt-hours per year to neighboring countries.
The expansion work was conducted by Turkish firm Calik Holding and General Electric of the United States.
The plant is part of efforts by Turkmenistan to diversify its economy, which overwhelmingly depends on natural-gas exports for revenue.
The Central Asian country, which sits on the fourth-largest reserves of natural gas, halted gas shipments to Iran at the beginning of this year, claiming Tehran owed it $1.8 billion for product for which it never paid.
The head of Turkmenistan’s state-controlled Turkmengas company, Myrat Archayev, has said negotiations with Tehran over the dispute have been unsuccessful, and the case is set to go to arbitration.
In addition, Russia in 2016 stopped buying gas from Turkmenistan. With the cutoff of supplies to Iran, Ashbagat is now left with China as its sole customer.
In further efforts to diversify its economy, Turkmenistan also opened a vast new seaport on the Caspian Sea that the country hopes will improve its export prospects and establish it as a regional hub connecting Europe and Asia.
The elaborate new port in the city of Turkmenbashi will more than triple Turkmenistan’s cargo handling capacity to about 26 million tons a year, the government said.
Although it has no outlets to the world’s oceans, the 1,000-kilometer long Caspian Sea is an important thoroughfare for trade and passengers in the region.
Efforts to develop gas pipelines to Europe and India have yet to materialize after years of negotiations.
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.