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December 15, 2009

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Cheers greet landmark gas pipeline

A LANDMARK pipeline from Central Asia to China began pumping natural gas yesterday.

At a noon ceremony in a field in northeastern Turkmenistan, the leaders of China, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan together rotated a pipeline spigot to applause and cheering, sending the first consignment of gas on its way to China.

The 1,833-kilometer pipeline starts at the gas plant in the Turkmen-Uzbek border town of Turkmennabad and runs through central Uzbekistan and southern Kazakhstan before entering China at the border pass of Horgos in the northwest Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

One of the two parallel pipelines which make up the project has already come on stream, and the other is expected next year.

The pipeline connects with pipelines inside China that carry natural gas produced in Turkmenistan to major Chinese cities like Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong.

Turkmen gas deliveries to China through the pipeline are expected to hit about 6 billion cubic meters in 2010, with supplies increasing incrementally every year until they reach 40 billion cubic meters in 2015.

"China gives the highest priority to cooperation between our neighbors and this pipeline is witness to the uninterrupted cooperation that continues to flourish between our nations," President Hu Jintao said at the ceremony, together with Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev and Uzbek President Islam Karimov.

"The successful implementation of this project could become a prototype for all international energy partnerships," Berdymukhamedov said in a speech before the opening. "This pipeline will have a positive impact across the entire region and beyond, and it will become a major contributing factor to security in Asia."

In a televised linkup, gas workers in Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and China then gave the go-ahead for the pipeline to begin operating.

Gas carried in the pipeline will come from the Bagtyyarlyk concession near Turkmenistan's border with Uzbekistan, which has been developed by the state-owned China National Petroleum Corporation since 2007.

Turkmen authorities believe the field may hold up to 1.3 trillion cubic meters of gas.

Hu said China was ready to continue to maintain close communication and step up coordination with Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to build the second line of the project and secure safety and efficiency in operations.

He said China was ready to advance energy collaboration among the four countries and to establish a long-term reliable partnership.

Chinese officials said the pipeline would serve the long-term interests of China and Central Asian nations and promote economic development.

They also said the pipeline would help improve the energy structure of China.

Deimdet Sh. Shayakhmetov, general director of Asia Gas Pipeline of Kazakhstan, said the line had opened up a new outlet of energy export for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.


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