Gas production in Turkmenistan

In some cases, Turkmenistan was no longer able to get gas to Uzbekistan because freezing temperatures made production impossible.

(Photo: image alliance/dpa)

Sedan Parts of Central Asia are currently experiencing one of the coldest winters in decades, with temperatures sometimes dipping below minus 30 degrees Celsius. Uzbekistan, in particular, was hit hard by freezing temperatures last week as neighboring Turkmenistan had to halt gas exports altogether at times.

When temperatures are this low, so-called gas hydrates form at gas production sites. Simply put, natural gas freezes and solidifies, making production and transportation impossible. According to local media reports, this was the case in Turkmenistan., as a result of which the gas supply to Uzbekistan had to be completely interrupted at times. According to various media reports, since the weekend gas has flowed again through the pipelines that connect the two countries.

But before that, help would have come out Russia You can come. The state-controlled gas company gazprom could have used the CAC pipeline, which normally transports natural gas from Turkmenistan through Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan flows to Russia. sold from there gazprom the raw material even more. In “reverse flow”, that is, the reverse pumping direction, the gas could now have flowed from Russia to the former Soviet republics.

But Russia did not act, by simple calculation: as early as November 2022, a Russian draft contract called for Uzbekistan to hand over its pipeline network to Gazprom in exchange. This would have allowed Russia to control Turkmenistan’s massive exports to China, because Turkmen gas passes through Uzbekistan on its way through China. In this way, Uzbekistan could have avoided a shortage with Russian gas, even if no one had expected the onset of severe winter.

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Moscow’s behavior is a consequence of massive Western sanctions against Russia. Because since then Gazprom barely after Europe exported, the profit of the state company, which is enormously important for the state budget, collapsed massively.

Gazprom is becoming increasingly dependent on China

Therefore, Moscow has been trying for several months to push Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan into a trilateral gas union. This is mainly because Gazprom is becoming more and more dependent on China due to the Ukraine war and sanctions.

Vladimir Putin and Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev

Russia is trying to take control of natural gas export routes to China.

(Photo: AP)

The second condition set by the Russian side, according to diplomatic sources, was the waiver of gas export rights to China. That is, Gazprom offered to become a party to the deal instead of Uzbek UzGazTrade. Gazprom declined to comment.

It is considered certain that China pays significantly less for imported gas than former European customers. Gazprom does not comment on the pricing details. But as the company becomes increasingly dependent on exports to the Orient, it becomes more vulnerable to blackmail. Control over parts of the lines to China would mean additional bargaining power.

The fact that Russia is putting pressure on its close neighbors to control the gas supply of entire continents is not new: even before the start of the Ukrainian war, Gazprom repeatedly tried to seize control of Ukrainian gas pipelines for transportation to Europe, unsuccessfully. Instead, the group built the now largely destroyed Nord Stream pipelines across the Baltic Sea.

Moscow met with rejection in Uzbekistan. Kazakhstan, which should have ceded the network to the national gas company Kazakgaz, also refused. Now the Uzbeks must hope that the temperatures will not again disrupt gas exports from Turkmenistan.

More: Russia’s economy is threatened with collapse

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