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EU wants Kazakhstan in Trans-Caspian pipeline project

EU wants Kazakhstan in Trans-Caspian pipeline project
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The European Union has invited Kazakhstan to join the Trans-Caspian pipeline project designed to transport gas from central Asia to Europe.

The invitation came from European Energy Commissioner Gunther Oettinger at an energy forum in Astana opened by Kazakhstan’s prime minister Karim Massimov where stronger energy cooperation with the the EU is being discussed.

The underwater pipeline would connect Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan.

Oettinger said: “For the EU such a pipeline project will be a very important contribution to the development of the Southern Gas Corridor.”

He added: “This shows how much the EU appreciates this project and cooperation in the region. We would welcome Kazakhstan’s participation in the Southern Corridor in the future.”

Kazakhstan is also offering to settle a long running ownership dispute over the Karachaganak gas and oil field.

The head of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, Timur Kulibayev, said they are willing to pay up to 825 million euros to join the international consortium developing the field operated by British Gas Group and Italy’s ENI.

Kazakhstan wants to acquire a 10 percent stake in the field, ahead of a challenging third phase of development.

Kulibayev said: There are two phases there — the first one is the settling of disputable issues. Then the second phase will follow — commercial negotiations on the (stake) purchase.”

Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s largest economy, has become more assertive over its natural resources in recent years and has sought to revise agreements struck with foreign energy companies when it lacked cash after the fall of the Soviet Union.

The government has long expressed a desire to join the international consortium that operates the Karachaganak field in northwestern Kazakhstan, which contributes 49 percent of the gas produced by the country and 18 percent of its crude oil.

“In principle, we plan to complete all our discussions by the end of the year,” Kulibayev told a news conference at the KAZENERGY forum.

KAZENERGY is an industry alliance of the over 50 companies, domestic and foreign, that operate in the country.

The two day gathering includes the heads of government agencies from various countries and major international energy corporations, along industry experts.

Opening the forum, Kazakhstan prime minister Karim Massimov praised the country’s energy sector as a “symbol of the success of investment cooperation in the new Kazakhstan” over the last 20 years.

Kazakhstan will become one of the world’s five largest oil exporters by the end of the decade, once the giant Kashagan offshore oilfield will start producing oil in 2012.