By Zafar Bhutta
After being in the works for the past 22 years, the multibillion-dollar Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (Tapi) gas pipeline project got under way on Friday.
The pipeline will serve as an energy corridor between Central and South Asia.
The inaugural ceremony of the Front and Engineering Design (FEED) was held to start work on the project in Pakistan. German firm ILF Consulting Engineers will conduct a route survey.
Called a peace pipeline, it will begin from a massive gas field in Turkmenistan, pass through war-torn Afghanistan and reach Pakistan and India to satisfy demand of the energy-starved nations.
Petroleum and Natural Resources Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, Tapi Company Chairman Muhummet Murat Amanov, Economic Adviser to Afghan President Ajmal Ahmadi and Inter State Gas Systems (ISGS) Managing Director Mobin Saulat spoke at the ceremony.
Abbasi said it was a historic moment that a project conceived 22 years ago had been launched. It would meet major energy needs of Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
“Pakistan started LNG imports two years ago, but these are not sufficient to meet the entire energy demand,” he said. “We are optimistic that the Tapi pipeline will meet a large part of the country’s demand and Pakistan will have surplus power and gas after completion of this project in 2020.”
Pakistan will receive 1.3 billion cubic feet of gas per day under the project.
Abbasi shared that there were several challenges related to implementation of the project, but they were addressed due to efforts made by Turkmenistan and the commitment to making the project a reality for gas provision to Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
Tapi Company Chairman Muhummet Murat Amanov said the project carried an economic role as well and it was important to bring social stability in the entire region.
He said initial work was already done as gas sales and investment agreements had been signed. “We have received several offers from financial institutions and private financiers to fund this project.”
Amanov said work on development of the gas field in Turkmenistan had started and an agreement had been signed with the Islamic Development Bank (IDB) for acquiring financing for the project.
Economic Adviser to Afghan President Ajmal Ahmadi said Afghanistan was in the process of implementing different projects like Casa power import and development of Iran’s Chabahar port for regional connectivity. He said Central Asia was an energy hub and Tapi was a clear solution to the energy needs.
Mobin Saulat added practical measures were being taken to overcome the energy crisis in Pakistan as the deteriorating energy situation had been adversely impacting the country’s economic growth.