Kazakhstan: the new energy frontier

Kazakhstan: the new energy frontier
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Astana has become the capital of the energy industry, gathering together the most influential players in the oil-gas-uranium-solar market of Central Asia.

At the fifth edition of the Kazenergy Eurasian Forum, the country’s prime minister, Karim Massimov, stressed the reliability of Kazakhstan as an energy provider.

He said: “We do not have any ambitions to use our energy resources in order to have a political presence worldwide: we want a sustainable and peaceful development of our country. That’s why we want to be a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe.”

Kazakhstan not only has the energy but also the means to bring it to its main markets, such as the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline.

Described as the “energy project of the century”, it has the capacity to transport a million barrels of crude oil per day from the Caspian to the Mediterranean.

Timur Kulibayev, chairman of the Kazenergy Association, said Kazakhstan has signed a transit agreement with Azerbaijan that will allow a free flow of oil to the West.

He explained: “We are continuing to expand transportation towards the European markets and in a new direction for us: China. We plan that by 2015 we will be supplying two thirds of our energy products to European and international markets and one third to the Chinese market.”

The Nabucco pipeline will connect the world’s richest gas regions to Europe, ensuring, in theory anyway, both security and diversification of supply.

Mirek Topolanek, former prime minister of the Czech Republic, said: “But it is not simple because the European Union is not able to make a common agreement and to go for the Southern corridor and to build Nabucco as soon as possible. I think the biggest problem of the European Union is that a common energy policy does not exist. It’s a goal for the politicians for the present time.”

The world economy is shifting towards the East, where societies are becoming richer and therefore consuming more energy, a bonus for Australia, said one former prime minister.

John Howard explained: “One of the reasons why Australia came through the economic downturn in good shape was the strength and the proximity of our markets.

“And when we talk about China we never forget the importance of Japan as an export destination and India is a growing export destination for Australia. So we are in this part of the world and it’s going to be the centre of gravity of the middle class and we understand that and we tend to be a very competitive player.”

The energy industry has asked for clear environmental rules after the failure of the Copenhagen summit increased uncertainty over profitable long-term investments.

Christoph Frei, Secretary General of the World Energy Council, said: “We need a solid legal framework, a carbon framework that gives a clear signal to the energy industry, without that framework the industry has no certainty about investment in energy infrastructure, which is obviously a disaster for the industry.”

While Europe is too dependent on hydrocarbons, it has taken a lead in renewable energies.

Former Chancellor of Austria Alfred Gusenbauer said: “We are going to make the most impressive energy transition in the history of mankind. In Europe we now have a mix of around 80% fossil energy consumption and 20% renewable; over the next century this mix will be reversed. This means a completely new challenge in terms of research, development, efficiency, transportation as well as political relations.”

German Bejarano, International Relations Director of solar-tech firm Abengoa, said: “Luckily for Europe we have moved more rapidly towards clean energies. So we have achieved a clear technological progress in the fields of wind energy, thermo-solar as well as in the photovoltaic area. We are not only talking about mixing different (energy) productions, but also the fact that we are building up a new industry.”

There is certainly a role for Europe to play in fast-growing emerging countries like Kazakhstan, immensely rich in most minerals but lacking technology and know-how.

Euronews correspondent Constantino de Miguel summed it up: “Central Asia is gaining an increasingly prominent position on the global energy map. But this region is also the new frontier for that economic growth that Western companies are actively seeking and need so much.”