In talks with the Turkmenistan leadership in Ashkhabad earlier this week, India discussed the prospects of sourcing gas from the central Asian country by an under-sea pipeline project from Iran, a project considered unviable till a few years back.
The Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) pipeline also figured in talks between Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and her Turkmen interlocutors, said government officials.
While talks on the TAPI pipeline are intended to keep the issue alive, an under-sea pipeline could make the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline irrelevant. The offshore route proposal envisages transporting Turkmen gas to northern Iran and a swap arrangement would bring gas from southern Iran via the proposed “SAGE” (South Asia Gas Enterprise Pvt. Ltd.) pipeline to India.
The SAGE project envisages a Middle-East natural gas gathering system connecting gas sources to the coast of the Arabian peninsula. From there, the SAGE family of pipelines plan to follow a route surveyed 15 years back and declared unviable at that time as techniques of deepwater pipe-laying and manufacturing had not matured.
“Technology has made this feasible now. This is an idea we will discuss,” said an official. SAGE is understood to have finalised a memorandum of understanding with National Iranian Gas Export Company for developing gas exports through this route, bypassing Pakistan. The Gas Authority of India Limited has also entered into a “principles of cooperation arrangement” for this sea route.
The prospects of another offshore route from Iran to India via Oman are also bright following indications that Muscat could be interested.
Talking to The Hindu, Ambassador of Oman Sheikh Humaid Bin Ali Bin Sultan Al-Mani confirmed that both countries were considering the off-shore pipeline after it had been rejected as too expensive in the 1990s because at a certain point its depth would have been 3,500 meters or four times deeper than any under-sea pipeline laid then. An Indian consortium has already been allocated Block 18 in Oman to prospect for oil and gas.