ISLAMABAD - China is exploring building a spur from Pakistan’s territory once the multi-country TAPI natural gas pipeline project begins operating, a Pakistani official said, with the financial close of the project’s first phase expected next month.
Originating at the giant Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan, the $9.6 billion TAPI (Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India) pipeline involves the four countries’ own energy companies, and would carry 33 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas a year.
Turkmenistan is building the TAPI pipeline to diversify its gas exports, which have mostly gone to China . But the project has suffered lengthy delays due to difficulties obtaining financing and the security risks of building a pipeline through war-torn Afghanistan.
Mobin Saulat, the chief executive officer of Pakistan’s state-owned Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS), told Reuters that Chinese officials have shown growing interest in building a spur from Pakistan and the line could act as an alternative to Beijing’s plans to build a fourth China-to-Turkmenistan pipeline.
“With this channel, there is a possibility they don’t have to do another line and they can off-take from this pipeline which is passing through Pakistan,” Saulat said.
A China-to-Turkmenistan line has to cross several Central Asian mountain ranges and Saulat said it would be cheaper and easier for China to build a line from inside Pakistan’s territory to cross the Karakoram range to its Western border.
China’s ties to Islamabad have deepened in recent years as Beijing has pledged to fund $57 billion in infrastructure as part of its Belt and Road initiative, including power stations and transport links.