Sat, 20 Apr 2019

Russia's state-owned energy giant Gazprom says it has resumed imports of natural gas from Turkmenistan that it stopped three years ago.

Gazprom spokesman Sergei Kupriyanov said on April 15 that 'supplies are taking place.' Turkmenistan's state natural gas company, Turkmengaz, also confirmed the move.

No details were given about the amount of gas that Russia would buy or at what price.

Russia was once the leading importer of Turkmen gas until it was displaced by China in 2010.

Relatively cheap imports of gas from Turkmenistan and other Central Asian countries enabled Russia to boost its exports to Europe.

In 2015, Gazprom announced its intention to cut imports of Turkmen gas to 4 billion cubic meters per year, down from the 10 billion level that it had been importing since 2010.

The move was followed by a complete halt in 2016, putting significant pressure on Turkmenistan's economy, which is highly dependent on hydrocarbons as a source of hard currency.

Russia's purchase halt came after the collapse of hydrocarbon prices in 2014.

The move also came as relations between Moscow and the former Soviet republic became increasingly strained by a competition to supply the large Chinese gas market.

Gazprom plans to start gas sales to China in 2019, gradually increasing flows to 38 billion cubic meters per year from east Siberia.

Gazprom's decision to halt purchases from Turkmengaz left Ashgabat even more reliant on demand from China, which last year imported around 40 billion cubic meters of Turkmen gas via the Central Asia-China pipeline.

A year ago, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov ended a quarter-century-long practice of providing free natural gas, electricity, and water to residents in Turkmenistan in efforts to save money.

In January, Turkmenistan began construction on a multibillion-dollar, cross-country highway project that the Central Asian state hopes will help generate more regional trade.

Talks between Gazprom and Turkmengaz over new gas-supply terms had been deadlocked because of a price dispute.

Turkmenistan owns the world's fourth-largest known reserves of natural gas but has limited infrastructure to export its energy resources.

With reporting by Reuters and AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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