ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — Turkmenistan has issued an angry response to Russian skepticism over the size of its natural gas reserves and reinforced its ambition to find new energy markets in Asia and Europe that will cut its dependence on the Kremlin.
BP data ranks natural gas reserves in Turkmenistan as the world’s fourth largest. The Central Asian country is seeking alternative export routes to meet its goal of more than tripling natural gas output by 2030.
Auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates has ranked the South Iolotan natural gas field as the world’s second largest after South Pars in Iran, saying last month that it could contain between 13.1 trillion and 21.2 trillion cubic meters.
The auditor also said the Minara and Yashlar deposits, previously thought to be separate fields, were actually part of the same giant structure, whose combined reserves could now total a maximum of 26.2 trillion cubic meters.
But Alexander Medvedev, deputy chief executive of Gazprom, called these estimates into question, saying seismic studies conducted in Soviet days pointed to much smaller reserves.
"I believe that there are no grounds … and no reason to make such statements that there is such a natural deposit with reserves of this scale," Medvedev said in an interview with Vesti-24 television Friday.
Ashgabat, at odds with Moscow over its plans to export gas to Europe, issued a strongly worded statement at the weekend, expressing "bewilderment over the biased assessment by a professional" and callingGazprom’s remarks "utterly tactless."
Turkmenistan’s Foreign Ministry said in the statement that it viewed Medvedev’s remarks as "yet another clumsy attempt to distort the real situation regarding Turkmenistan’s resource potential, in particular its gas reserves."
"Turkmenistan will continue energy cooperation with all interested parties, based on mutual respect, equal partnership and the diversification of routes to supply its energy resources to world markets," the ministry said.
Turkmenistan President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov simultaneously issued a decree ordering that the entire South Iolotan structure be called "Galkynys" from now on.
"Galkynys" is the Turkmen word for "Renaissance" and has become the buzzword for Berdymukhammedov’s reign, officially referred to as "The Epoch of New Renaissance and Great Transformations" in the desert nation.
Turkmenistan, one of the least developed Soviet republics when the Soviet Union collapsed two decades ago, is now among the world’s fastest-growing economies and is pinning hopes of future prosperity on its huge hydrocarbon reserves.
It has expanded gas exports to next-door Iran and launched a pipeline to China. It has also won strong support from the European Union and the United States for plans to supply gas to a trans-Caspian pipeline that will run to Europe via Azerbaijan.
Baymurad Hojamuhamedov, the deputy prime minister with responsibility for the energy sector, told an energy conference last week that Turkmenistan’s total hydrocarbon reserves as of Oct. 1, 2011, stood at 71.21 billion tons, versus 45.44 billion tons as of Jan. 1, 2006.
Turkmenistan will boost natural gas deliveries to energy-hungry China under an agreement signed Wednesday that will see the central Asian nation supply about half of China’s gas needs.
The agreement will increase annual gas deliveries by 25 billion cubic meters a year, bringing the total to 65 billion cubic meters annually. That’s equivalent to more than half of China’s entire natural gas consumption last year.
China, the world’s No. 2 economy, has been courting Turkmenistan and other former Soviet Central Asian republics to diversify and expand access to energy needed to power its fast-growing economy and reduce its reliance on heavily polluting coal.
The gas agreement was one of 14 signed following talks Wednesday between Turkmen President Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov and Chinese President Hu Jintao. Others cover loans for the purchase of oil and gas drilling equipment, police training, and counterterrorism.
During their meeting, Hu pledged to deepen energy cooperation with Turkmenistan following the success of a pipeline that the two countries opened in December 2009 that links to northwest China, state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.
On Thursday, Berdymukhamedov will attend the ceremonial opening of a $22 billion pipeline that will carry Turkmen gas to southern China. The 5,370-mile (8,700-kilometer) natural gas pipeline began operating in June, helping boost supplies to the country’s booming industrial zones. It is slated to provide up to 30 billion cubic meters of natural gas a year.
Berdymukhamedov is in China for a four-day visit, during which he will also meet with China’s second most powerful official, Wu Bangguo, and Premier Wen Jiabao. He will also travel to the southern export powerhouse of Shenzhen and semiautonomous Hong Kong....