Thursday, March 7, 2013

Pipelines returns, only to fade away

Kazahk-India Five nation pipeline

Shymkent is the third most populous city in Kazakhstan. Travellers once used to take rest here, to recover from tiredness caused by long journeys through ancient Silk Route. On the other hand, Atari (India) is located close to Wagah international border between India and Pakistan.

Recently, I just checked the distance between these two cities using Google maps - Its 2025 km. In the era of bullet trains and High Speed Rail, this is not a big deal. But the problem here is, this route also passes through one of the most unstable (politically) and difficult terrains (geographically). Apart from a number of CIS states, this route goes through Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. In total five states.

You may be wondering, why I am talking about the route between Shymkent and Punjab. Well, let me take you to a recent report on ‘The Hindu’,

"...proposed pipeline would cover about 1,500 kms...making it longer than the planned Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline... It will head from... Shymkent..."

I don’t understand; why we keep on proposing so many unviable hydrocarbon pipeline projects. First one was, Iran-Pakistan-India (IPI) pipeline, which sunk to the annals of history following West’s fear over nuclear Iran. Then came, ‘Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI)’ pipeline; considering the route (both politically and economically) it’s difficult to tell, whether it will ever come out of drawing paper. This newly proposed one creates one more entry in this list.

Before proposing another more pipeline projects, authorities should go through a simple checklist.

1. Are we going to delink gas prices from oil prices?
2. Will international Oil & Gas price come down once US and Canada start exporting shale gas?
3. Will a big success in Arctic drilling be able to reduce the oil & gas prices further?
4. Is there enough oil/gas in Central Asia’s fields to sustain and justify the huge cost of expenditure involved in the creation of pipe line?
5. Considering the cost of construction, will the Kazakh gas be cheap in India?
6. Who will ensure the security of pipeline in Af-Pak region? 
7. Is this pipeline route better than bringing the Central Asian gas to the Iranian port of Chabahar and then through Sea?

There are more, but let’s start with these ones.



1. India proposes hydrocarbon pipeline from Kazakhstan - The Hindu

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