Gas and Energy Problems of Uzbekistan with Central Asian States
Vadim Lyaganov (Tashkent)
Energy relations in Central Asia have been and remain one of the stumbling blocks between states after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The system of energy supply and offsets in the new market relations established in the Soviet era ceased to operate, and this led to a crisis of cooperation in the region, moreover, to the so-called. energy wars. To a large extent, it was fueled by political claims of the parties, in particular, by linking with border aspects, water distribution, cargo transit, exposure to influence of the West or Islamic countries, etc. Apparently, one of the reasons for the weakness of the Organization of Central Asian Cooperation was the weakness of the position of the participants in the decision of the "Gordian knot" of energy.
This trend has intensified in recent months against the background of the Ukrainian-Russian gas conflict, which vividly expressed the dependence of one country on another. Given that Uzbekistan is one of the main gas suppliers to the southern parts of Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan, as well as to Tajikistan, the neighbors could not help but think that the price doctrine is being transformed into a good club, thanks to which Tashkent will be able to knock out good political concessions. Previously, such moments manifested themselves, especially during periods of acute confrontations that arose between the leaders of the countries.
At the same time, having joined the Euro-Asian economic community, Uzbekistan is forced to play by the new rules, and there is no place for political ambitions. Tashkent seeks to maintain an even face and objectivity in cooperation with its neighbors. And it becomes more or less commercial than political. It is well known that one of the problems of mutual settlements is the fact that between Uzbekistan, on the one hand, and Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, on the other, there is a barter exchange scheme for gas export-import, which is economically unprofitable for supplier companies, since financial resources are not settle on their accounts in full. Moreover, there is a complex payment mechanism that is linked to cooperation in completely different areas, for example, the summer water supply of Uzbekistan from the Kyrgyz Tokhtogul reservoir, or the transit freight traffic of the railway communication through Tajik territory. Moreover, with Kyrgyzstan, the offset was made only by 50% in a sum of money, the rest was either virtual (through services), or compensated by goods, the need for which the Uzbekneftegaz NHC was not so necessary. Over the past three years, experts have proposed moving to fully commercial terms of contacts, which will introduce a clearer outline of the responsibilities and rights of the parties. In particular, Uzbek suppliers sell gas at reduced prices in exchange for cash, as is done with Kazakh customers; the linking of gas exports with intergovernmental agreements on irrigation (with Kyrgyzstan) and the transport corridor (with Tajikistan) is eliminated; longer-term contracts arise between suppliers and consumers, that is, economic entities, bypassing government structures.
Meanwhile, from January 1, 2006, the price of natural gas supplied by Uzbekistan for export to Russia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan increased from $ 42 to $ 55 per 1 thousand cubic meters, that is, 1.3 times. One cannot ignore the fact that the energy shortage, which clearly manifested itself in the CIS, contributed to such price dynamics, but on the other hand, the technical costs also increased, in particular, the cost of rolled metal, which is the basis for the manufacture of pipes, increased to 40%. energy prices. This forced Uzbek suppliers to embark on tougher and more radical reforms in the trade in hydrogen sulfide resources.
Partially, these areas were realized at the end of 2005, when the joint-stock company Uztransgaz (which is the structure of the national holding company Uzbekneftegaz) undertook to deliver 750 million cubic meters to Kyrgyzstan in 2006. gas at a price of $ 55 per 1 thousand cubic meters (which amounts to $ 41.2 million), and on conditions of 100% prepayment in the amount of the planned receipt for each month (an average of $ 3.5 million). This tough approach by Uzbek experts is explained by the fact that consumer partners constantly violate the terms of payment. It is worth saying that in 2004, the Uzbek side refused to sign a contract because of debts for gas consumed, which amounted to about $ 13 million. In this connection, during the period of 2004 and the first half of 2005, Kyrgyzgaz JSC was forced to select gas from Kazakhstani volumes. However, in August 2005, an agreement was reached between the parties, which allowed Uztransgaz and Kyrgyzgaz to sign a contract for the supply of natural gas to the southern regions of Kyrgyzstan in the amount of 103 million cubic meters on conditions of 100% prepayment at a price of $ 42 per 1 thousand cubic meters (more than $ 4.32 million)
Kyrgyzstan is considered a gas-dependent country, the southern part of its territory is provided by supplies from Uzbekistan, and the northern part - by Kazakhstan. Kyrgyzstan’s gas needs are covered by Kaztransgaz JSC under a contract with Uztransgaz for transit (2 billion cubic meters for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan). After the Andijan events, it was reported that Tashkent had shut off its supplies to Kyrgyzstan, but the Kazakhs had installed valves on the pipe, fearing unauthorized gas extraction.
Supplies to Kazakhstan in 2006 should reach 1.6 billion cubic meters. gas ($ 88 million). The representative of Uzbekneftegaz stressed that in the event of an increase in the needs of the Kazakh side and with timely payment, there is a possibility of increasing supplies. This gas will be used as fuel for Zhambyl GRES, providing electricity to the southern regions of Kazakhstan in the winter period.
Trade of Tashkent and with Dushanbe is expanding. Thus, an agreement was reached between the parties on an increase in Tajikistan in 2006 of the volume of imports of natural gas from Uzbekistan to 750 million cubic meters. (last year this volume reached 650 million cubic meters). In recent years, Uztransgaz has been supplying natural gas to Tajikistan under a mixed financing scheme - about 60% of the volume is supplied as payment for transit via pipelines through the Tajik territory, the rest is 100% prepaid. According to experts of the World Bank, in order to realize their “export ambitions” in the countries of the region, Uzbekistan needs to abandon barter contracts with Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan and switch to commercial agreements on the basis of long-term contracts. They believe that the price of Uzbek gas for Tajikistan was on barter contracts during 1996-2003. from $ 40 to $ 63 per 1 thousand cubic meters. By the way, due to low energy prices, the lack of financial discipline and operational inefficiency the quasi-fiscal deficit in the energy sector of Uzbekistan was $ 2.4 billion.
In recent years, Russia has shown interest in the Uzbek natural resources, and this is directly linked to the warming of relations between the countries, as well as the protection Moscow provides to the regime of Islam Karimov. According to statistics from the Uzbekneftegaz National Holding Company, in 2005 the volume of natural gas exports to Russia increased by 14.5% to 8.15 billion cubic meters, whereas in 2004 this figure was 7.114 billion. It is known that gas trade started in May 2003, reaching 1.27 billion. It was from this period that Tashkent’s tense relations with Europe and the United States began, and Russia gave signs to bring positions closer. Moreover, deliveries to Ukraine were possible only with the operation of Gazprom’s pipelines, although this market caused certain concerns among Uzbek suppliers (the January events confirmed these forecasts).
Since 2005, a “breakthrough” of Russian investments in the gas processing sector of Uzbekistan began, where investments in the amount of $ 1.5 billion are expected, in particular, in six new gas and oil fields. $ 260 million was allocated for exploration work on the Usyurt plateau for the coming years, and it is forecasted to spend about $ 400 million for the future. Naturally, these amounts should be returned and included in the price grid, which for Russian consumers will be lower than the cost of similar Russian supplies to Ukraine or Europe. Thus, Moscow assumes the role of a trade switchboard distributor between Central Asia and European countries.
On January 18, 2006, the Gazprom delegation signed an agreement with the Uzbekneftegaz National Holding Company, under which new gas purchase prices were determined, as well as the rate of its transit through the territory of Uzbekistan — $ 1.1 per 1,000 cubic meters. 100 km. (taking into account that the length of the network is about 400 km, and the size of deliveries in 2006 was determined at 9 billion cubic meters, the transit amount reaches $ 40 million, and the amount of deliveries - $ 495 million). The meeting between Gazprom Head Alexei Miller and President of Uzbekistan Islam Karimov, as well as with Deputy Prime Minister Utkir Sultanov and Chairman of the Board of Uzbekneftegaz Abdusalom Azizov testifies to the strategic interests of the two sides, which were laid in December 2002 . It was then that the agreement came into force, which provided for long-term purchases of Uzbek gas for the period 2003-2012, Gazprom’s participation in projects for the extraction of natural gas in Uzbekistan under the terms of the PSA, and cooperation in the development of the republic’s gas transportation infrastructure Asian gas through the territory of Uzbekistan.
Perhaps, the Russian influence will relieve tension in the energy relations between the Central Asian countries, but it should be understood that a new player has emerged who will seek to control the situation in the region and receive, respectively, its own benefit, to protect its interests. And someone will fly into the pipe at the same time ... gas, of course.
Interesting. Moscow buys 9 billion cubic meters of gas, the rest in the region — well, let's say, about 4 billion. And Uzbekistan produces 45 billion, consumes 15 billion. Where does the rest go? Where almost 20 billion. The shadow economy?