Uzbekistan and A Russian Energy Battle: Part of Lukoil’s Capital Flight Plan?

Via Stratfor (subscription required), a highly interesting analysis of Uzbekistan’s status as a large natural gas producer that is locked into Russia’s interests, even though it has many potential export options beyond its large neighbor. As the article notes:

“…Uzbekistan, an often-ignored energy source in the heart of Central Asia, ranks among the world’s top 10 natural gas-producing countries, though its exports currently are swallowed up by Russia. However, Uzbekistan is looking to diversify beyond Russia…not only because it is concerned with its dependence on Moscow, but because a battle between two of Russia’s energy firms could see Uzbekistan caught in the crossfire…




Uzbekistan's Natural Gas Infrastructure

Uzbekistan, which currently has proven natural gas reserves of 1.8 trillion cubic meters, is the second-largest natural gas producer in the Commonwealth of Independent States, behind Russia. It also is one of the few Central Asian countries to have its own energy company, Uzbekneftegaz, which runs efficiently alone and in joint ventures.

…Uzbekistan is eager to find alternative markets for its natural gas. It is in negotiations to help supply the proposed pipeline to China through Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan, and has expressed interest in joining the lines flowing through Turkmenistan to Iran and onward to Turkey. Its infrastructure is hardwired into those of Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, so if either country gets another export option, Uzbekistan gains access as well, meaning it could shift away from Russia overnight.Russia is by far the largest investor in the Uzbek economy, accounting for more than 40 percent of foreign investment. Most of the investment comes from two of Russia’s large energy firms, state-owned giant Gazprom and private firm LUKoil. However, the two companies are about to enter into direct competition over Uzbekistan’s energy resources… This could mean any number of things for Uzbekistan, including the possibility that Gazprom could make life difficult for Uzbekneftegaz as it tries to gain access to Uzbek energy assets.

Gazprom has long been encroaching on LUKoil’s turf inside Russia, which has led the private company to invest beyond the motherland. LUKoil President Vagit Alekperov, knowing Gazprom will snatch up the rest of his company’s Russian investments sooner or later, is building up an international empire to ensure LUKoil has assets when the hammer comes down in Russia. Uzbekistan is a large part of LUKoil’s capital flight plan.

…LUKoil wants to sell the natural gas it produces in Uzbekistan on its own terms instead of sending it to Russia, where Gazprom pays little for the gas and then gets to resell it at a profit. But Gazprom is not eager to lose a chunk of its natural gas imports, which it sells on the Russian domestic market and also mixes into its exports to Europe. Gazprom is also pressuring LUKoil to allow it to become a “partner” in its many Uzbek ventures, including plans to invest more than $1 billion in the next few years in production, new pipelines, new natural gas processing stations and more.

Of course, what Gazprom means is that it wants LUKoil to continue investing in and developing Uzbekistan’s energy infrastructure and keep the supplies flowing to Russia, but allow Gazprom to take the spoils….”

This entry was posted on Friday, January 4th, 2008 at 2:03 pm and is filed under China, Gazprom, Kazakhstan, Lukoil, Russia, Uzbekistan, Uzbekneftegaz.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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