The Central Asia pipeline has moved a step closer to reality as work started in Kazakhstan on the huge project which will feed gas from the vast Caspian Sea gas reserves to energy-hungry China.
The dual pipeline is the first significant independent gas link connecting the former Soviet region with eastern markets. Crucially it bypasses Russia. Currently the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom is the main buyer of Central Asian gas, much of which it sells on to Europe.
Gas shipments are due to start in 2010 along the more than 1,800 kilometre route that links Turkmenistan’s natural gas deposits with north west China, via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Uzbekistan also started building its part of the pipeline this month while Turkmenistan launched its segment last year.