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Russia to Expand Gas Supplies to Uzbekistan, Plans Nuclear Power Plant Construction

By Vusala Abbasova May 29, 2024

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The Central Asia-Center gas transport system, comprising four separate lines traversing Kazakhstan and extending into Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, has undergone crucial modifications. / Kremlin pool/EPA/EFE

Russian President Vladimir Putin has announced Moscow’s plans to expand the throughput capacity of the pipeline that delivers Russian natural gas to Uzbekistan through Kazakhstan.

The statement followed President Putin’s talks with his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev in the Uzbek capital, Tashkent, marking the Russian leader’s third foreign trip since his re-election in March.

“Efforts are underway now to expand the throughput capacity of the Central Asia-Center pipeline system, making it possible to scale up gas pumping to Uzbekistan to 11 billion cubic meters as early as next year,” TASS quoted President Putin as saying on Monday.

Gazprom initiated gas supplies to Uzbekistan via Kazakhstan under a short-term contract in October 2023. According to the Kazakh Energy Ministry, transit of Russian gas to Uzbekistan amounted to 1.28 billion cubic meters over the past year. In 2024, 3.8 billion cubic meters are expected to be transported.

The Central Asia-Center gas transport system, comprising four separate lines traversing Kazakhstan and extending into Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan, has undergone crucial modifications. Russia’s energy giant, Gazprom, successfully reversed the operation of the system over three months, ensuring more reliable gas supplies to Central Asian countries.

Meanwhile, in addition to the pipeline expansion, Monday’s talks resulted in several agreements aimed at deepening bilateral relations, including plans for Russia to build a small nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan.

The document, published on Monday, instructs the Russian state corporation Rosatom to sign a protocol amending the intergovernmental agreement between Tashkent and Moscow, originally signed on October 19, 2018, regarding nuclear power plant construction collaboration.

The draft protocol outlines the construction of a significant nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan with two energy blocks, each with a capacity of 1.2 GW. Additionally, there are plans to construct a nuclear power plant consisting of six energy reactors with a capacity of up to 55 MW each, based on a Russian design.

Mirziyoyev hailed the project as “vital,” noting that Uzbekistan has “its own large reserves of uranium.” Putin vowed to “do everything in order to work effectively on Uzbekistan’s (nuclear energy) market.”

Uzbekistan, one of the world’s two doubly landlocked countries, faces unique challenges in accessing global markets. Rich in hydrocarbons, the nation shares borders with Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Turkmenistan. Uzbekistan’s proven crude oil reserves rank 46th globally, while its natural gas reserves place it 19th among countries worldwide, accounting for about one percent of the world’s total natural gas reserves.

Facing a decline in domestic gas production, Uzbekistan plans to diversify its imports. At the end of 2023, gas production in Uzbekistan declined by almost 5 billion cubic meters. The output of oil and gas condensate also decreased. Meanwhile, Gazprom’s ability to swiftly organize gas supplies, leveraging Soviet-era gas transportation capacities like the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline, offers a reliable alternative.

The trilateral gas cooperation, which encompasses Russia, Kazakhstan, and Uzbekistan to transport Russian natural gas through Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, comes as Gazprom, facing challenges in the European market due to halted flows via the Nord Stream and Yamal-Europe pipelines, strategically turns to Central Asian markets. The company, with reported spare production capacity of 100 billion cubic meters of gas per year, aims to strengthen its position in the region.