The Turkmen stretch of the TAPI pipeline, named after the countries it is designed to cross, will be built by a Turkmen state company with experience in building oil and gas pipelines, the official said on condition of anonymity.
State gas monopoly Turkmengas, selected in August to lead the TAPI consortium, will be joined by international energy companies “at a later stage”, the official said. He gave no further details.
AFP earlier quoting state media had reported that Turkmenistan has begun work on the ambitious 1,800-kilometre-long pipeline carrying gas from the former Soviet state to India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
“Specialists of the Institute of Oil and Gas in the ‘Turkmengaz’ state corporation have started engineering and surveying work on the route for the future Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline,” state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan reported, adding that the construction of the pipeline itself would begin in December.
The four countries have long planned the ambitious project to meet growing energy needs, but administrative issues and unrest in Afghanistan have so far delayed its realisation.
The four sides agreed last month that state company Turkmengaz would lead the consortium for the $10-billion project, although foreign commercial partners are also expected to participate.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said last month that Japanese and Korean companies had expressed interest in investing into TAPI and has invited Turkish companies to join the bidding process.
International energy majors Exxon Mobil, Chevron and Total had been rumoured to be interested in the project but are no longer thought to be contenders for the contract.
TAPI is expected to ship up to 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas annually starting in 2018, most of which will be absorbed by India and Pakistan. The project is key for ex-Soviet Turkmenistan, whose economy is almost entirely hydrocarbon-based and heavily dependent on China, which accounts for over 75 per cent of its gas sales.