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Regional Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region

August 27, 2013 Comments off

Regional Analysis Brief: Caspian Sea Region
Source: Energy Information Administration

The Caspian Sea region is one of the oldest oil-producing areas in the world and is an increasingly important source of global energy production. The area has significant oil and natural gas reserves from both offshore deposits in the Caspian Sea itself and onshore fields in the Caspian basin. Traditionally an oil-producing area, the Caspian area’s importance as a natural gas producer is growing quickly.

This report analyzes oil and natural gas in the Caspian region, focusing primarily on the littoral (coastal) countries of the Caspian Sea (Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and Iran). A discussion of Uzbekistan is also included. While not a Caspian coastal state, a considerable amount of Uzbekistan’s territory, along with its energy resources, lies in the geological Caspian basins.

Aside from Azerbaijan’s oil production, the Caspian Sea largely was untapped until the collapse of the Soviet Union. With several newly independent countries gaining access to valuable hydrocarbon deposits, the different countries have taken diverging approaches to developing the energy resources of the area. At the same time, the lack of regional cooperation between the countries’ governments and few export options for Caspian hydrocarbon resources have slowed the development of Caspian oil and natural gas resources.

The combination of foreign investment and rising energy prices allowed the coastal countries to shift from diverting oil extraction for local use to supplying both regional and world oil markets. The ability of countries to export greater volumes of Caspian crude oil and natural gas will depend on how quickly domestic energy demand rises in those countries, how quickly they can build additional export infrastructure to global markets, and whether expensive projects to develop Caspian resources can attract sufficient investment.

CRS — Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests

October 23, 2012 Comments off

Central Asia: Regional Developments and Implications for U.S. Interests (PDF)

Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

U.S. policy toward the Central Asian states has aimed at facilitating their cooperation with U.S. and NATO stabilization efforts in Afghanistan and their efforts to combat terrorism; proliferation; and trafficking in arms, drugs, and persons. Other U.S. objectives have included promoting free markets, democratization, human rights, energy development, and the forging of East-West and Central Asia-South Asia trade links. Such policies aim to help the states become what various U.S. administrations have considered to be responsible members of the international community rather than to degenerate into xenophobic, extremist, and anti-Western regimes that contribute to wider regional conflict and instability.

Soon after the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001, all the Central Asian “front-line” states offered over-flight and other support for coalition anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan. Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan hosted coalition troops and provided access to airbases. In 2003, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan also endorsed coalition military action in Iraq. About two dozen Kazakhstani troops served in Iraq until late 2008. Uzbekistan rescinded U.S. basing rights in 2005 after the United States criticized the reported killing of civilians in the town of Andijon. In early 2009, Kyrgyzstan ordered a U.S. base in that country to close, allegedly because of Russian inducements and U.S. reluctance to meet Kyrgyz requests for greatly increased lease payments. An agreement on continued U.S. use of the Manas Transit Center was reached in June 2009. In recent years, most of the regional states also participate in the Northern Distribution Network for the transport of U.S. and NATO supplies into and out of Afghanistan.

Policymakers have tailored U.S. policy in Central Asia to the varying characteristics of these states. U.S. interests in Kazakhstan have included securing and eliminating Soviet-era nuclear and biological weapons materials and facilities. U.S. energy firms have invested in oil and natural gas development in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, and successive administrations have backed diverse export routes to the West for these resources. U.S. policy toward Kyrgyzstan has long included support for its civil society. In Tajikistan, the United States focuses on developmental assistance to bolster the fragile economy and address high poverty rates. U.S. relations with Uzbekistan—the most populous state in the heart of the region—were cool after 2005, but recently have improved.

Congress has been at the forefront in advocating increased U.S. ties with Central Asia, and in providing backing for the region for the transit of equipment and supplies for U.S.-led stabilization efforts in Afghanistan. Congress has pursued these goals through hearings and legislation on humanitarian, economic, and democratization assistance; security issues; and human rights. During the 112th Congress, the Members may review assistance for bolstering regional border and customs controls and other safeguards to prevent the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD), combating trafficking in persons and drugs, encouraging regional integration with South Asia and Europe, advancing energy security, and countering terrorism. Support for these goals also has been viewed as contributing to stabilization and reconstruction operations by the United States and NATO in Afghanistan. For several years, Congress has placed conditions on assistance to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan because of concerns about human rights abuses and lagging democratization (the Secretary of State may waive such conditions). Congress will continue to consider how to balance these varied U.S. interests in the region.

Country Analysis Brief: Turkmenistan

January 28, 2012 Comments off

Country Analysis Brief: Turkmenistan
Source: Energy Information Administration

Turkmenistan has some of the largest natural gas reserves in the world, yet the country faces a myriad of challenges in bringing those reserves to world markets. It is geographically far from end-use markets and lacks sufficient pipeline infrastructure to export more hydrocarbons. Also, other hydrocarbon-rich Central Asian and Caspian states with more favorable investment climates and greater access to markets pose competition for Turkmenistan. The country is eager to diversify export routes for its oil and gas resources outside of the pipelines going to Russia, but must obtain capital, technical assistance, and political support for alternative pipelines.

After about 15 years of isolation and a political regime change, Turkmenistan began the process of renewing diplomatic relations with several countries including Russia, China, Europe, the US, and other Central Asian neighbors in 2007. Foreign energy firms experienced extreme political challenges and investment impasses prior to 2007, and several exited the country leaving a dearth of investment. Since then, Turkmenistan created a more business-friendly environment, attempting to attract foreign investment to increase both oil and gas production and expand its export portfolio.

Country Specific Information: Turkmenistan

April 24, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Turkmenistan
Source: U.S. Department of State

Turkmenistan is a Central Asian nation roughly the size of California. It shares borders with Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and Iran. Turkmenistan gained its independence in 1991 during the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Primarily a desert country, it has a population of around six million people. Tourist facilities, especially outside of the capital city of Ashgabat, are not highly developed. Many of the goods and services taken for granted in North American and Western European countries are not yet available. Travel within the country can be difficult due to limited infrastructure and government-imposed internal travel restrictions. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Turkmenistan for additional information.

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