TAPI Pipeline: India urges Turkmenistan on vendor selection

In a bid to secure a final agreement on the funding and leadership for the TAPI pipeline, which will transport natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Pakistan to India, Pakistani oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan and Indian officials have urged Turkmenistan to relax a domestic law so that an international company can be brought in to lead construction efforts. The steering committee meeting on Wednesday in Islamabad saw a show of rare agreement between Indian and Pakistani officials for the first time in many years.

French oil giant Total has been selected for months now to lead the project, but with oil prices falling over 50% in the past few months along with the lack of Turkmen cooperation, its continued involvement has been doubted by many observers. The steering committee urged Turkmenistan to select the consortium leader by March 15, which would be the deadline for a contract. Terms and conditions to start work as quickly as possible in order to ensure delivery of first gas by the original date of 2017.

Also under dispute is Total’s position in the pipeline project. All the TAPI member countries have agreed that Total will not be owner of the pipeline – which will instead be the state run consortium. The primary role of the vendor is to provide technical support to the Turkmen government. Details are mostly unclear, however, with multiple sources claiming that either Total has been pushed out of negotiations altogether, or that Chevron and Exxon Mobil were also interested in the project. Total has been totally silent on the issue, and no press releases have announced any kind of involvement in the project whatsoever.

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