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New Delhi: Gas-rich Bangladesh wants to join a pipeline project, TAPI, from Turkmenistan to India via Afghanistan and Pakistan, proposed in the early 1990s.

“There was a request from Bangladesh to join the project. We require an official note for this, which will be considered by all the four governments of the project," Kakageldy Abdullaev, Turkmenistan’s acting minister of oil and gas industry and mineral resources, said at the Petrotech 2012 meet in New Delhi.

Bangladesh has gas reserves of 135.8 billion cu. m that have not been exploited as the country has resisted calls until now for gas exports. The country is also part of a plan to establish a regional gas grid connecting India and Myanmar. India has been seeking gas supplies from Myanmar and Bangladesh, both of which have significant reserves of the fuel.

Turkmenistan has signed a gas sale and purchase agreement with Pakistan and India, with the quest to select a consortium leader expected to be completed in a year. The pipeline was earlier expected to start operating by 2016, with construction starting in 2012, which has now been pushed back to 2015.

“There are no financial problems and the financial entities will finance it," said Abdullaev. “The price (of gas) will be good for everyone."

India’s petroleum minister S. Jaipal Reddy declined to discuss pricing. In building the pipeline, the main problem is elsewhere, he said. “Pricing is not the problem." The pipeline has been delayed by political and economic problems. It will pass through violence-ridden Afghanistan and Balochistan in Pakistan and may suffer sabotage. India joined the project in April 2008.

The Asian Development Bank is the lead partner in the 1,680km project, also dubbed the peace pipeline as it brings together nations that share complex and difficult relationships, and is expected to involve an investment of $7.6 billion. It is expected to have a capacity of 90 million standard cu. m per day (mscmd) of gas from Turkmenistan’s Gunorta Yoloten-Osman fields. Of this, 38 mscmd is proposed to be carried to India.

The consortium will implement the project with potential anchor investors to share risks. This group will be responsible for laying, owning and operating the pipeline. Abdullaev said road shows to attract firms were recently held in New York, London and Singapore, and there was “substantial interest" from institutional investors.

The other pipeline project India has been involved is between Iran and India through Pakistan. Talks on the 2,300km project started in 1995, but with India clinching a civilian nuclear deal with the US, the process grinded to a halt. India may not even pursue the $7.4 billion project because of possible curbs it could attract from the US and has instead pushed ahead on the Turkmenistan pipeline. While the US has welcomed the latter, it is against the Iran pipeline.

Iran and Pakistan have decided to pursue the project without India, and have even extended a tie-up offer to China. The last trilateral meeting on the project involving Iran, Pakistan and India was held in July 2007, with Pakistan signing a gas sale and purchase pact for it.

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