Saturday, September 11, 2010

Chinese Demand for Central Asian Energy

In December 2009, the Central Asia-China (Turkmenistan to China) natural gas pipeline opened. This gave China the ability to import natural gas from Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakstan. The new natural gas pipline connects with the Chinese West-East pipeline, meaning Turkmen gas can reach Pacific coastal cities such as Shanghai and Hong Kong. To give the reader an idea of scale, the CA-C cost $7.3 billion to construct, and is 1,833 km (1100 miles) long. The West-East pipeline is over 4,500 km (2,800 miles) long, making the combined network the longest in the world. The CA-C line was partially financed by the China Development Bank, who invest $6.7 billion to build the portion of the line that transversed Kazakhstan (Hurriyet Daily News, 28 December 2009). Predictions are that the CA-C will reach its full capacity of 40 billion cubic meters by 2012-2013 (Reuters, March 11, 2010). Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov is requesting that China increase its $3 billion loan for the development of the South Yolotan gas field (, 24 August 2010), which would favor the gas flowing East to China rather than to Europe.

This is part of a longterm Chinese strategy to lock up energy sources around the globe. As the second largest energy consumer behind the United States, China needs to be certain it will have the energy to continue its breakneck economic growth. This has led to deals with Angola, Sudan, Iran, Venezuela, etc. It has also led to some strange bedfellows: earlier in 2009 China loaned Russian oil firms $25 billion in return for a 20 year supply of crude oil (Hurriyet Daily News, 21 December 2009). Russia is also building a $25 billion link across East Siberia to bring oil to China (The St. Petersburg Times, 24 August 2010). Russian Premier Vladmir Putin has officially launched the Russian section of the Eastern Siberia-Pacific Ocean pipeline. "The implementation of this project is a crucial task for Russia and our Chinese friends," he said. "It means stabilization of supplies and energy balance for China, and for us it creats entry to new challenging markets, in this particular case, to the growing market of China." Putin promised to deliver 30 million tons of oil to China, and (in case of expansion to the Asia-Pacific region) 50 million tons. Despite Putin's optimistic projections, only 15 million tons of crude have been delivered through the pipeline this year. (Oil & Gas Eurasia No. 7, July-August 2010).

Over 100 Chinese state-owned companies operate in Iran, and many of the contracts are in the oil and gas sector. According to Christina Lin of the Jamestown Foundation, In 2008 the China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) and the National Iranian Oil Corporation (NIOC) signed a $1.76 billion deal to develop the North Azadegan oil field, $8.2 billion deals in 2009 to develop the South Pars Gas field, a $3 billion deal to expand refineries, and a $4 billion deal to expand Iranian oil production. China is also selling gasoline to Iran, despite US sanctions against the country ("The Caspian Sea: China's Silk Road Strategy Converges with Damascus," , 19 August 2010 =).

Dr. James J. Coyle is available to speak to your organization or at your event. Please contact him at