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Turkmenistan - Caspian Sea

Turkmenistan is one of the five Caspian Sea littoral countries, an area with large volumes of oil and natural gas reserves. l. Most of Turkmenistanís oilfields are located in the west of the country in onshore areas near the Caspian Sea.

Turkmenistanís only coastline, along the Caspian Sea, is 1,768 kilometers long. Turkmenistan had a long-standing dispute with Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan over division of the Caspian seabed, which contains deposits of oil and other natural resources. : Access to the Caspian Sea makes Turkmenistanís transportation situation less difficult than that of other Central Asian republics. In the early 2000s, substantial work was done to restore infrastructure, which was in general disrepair, and to extend travel routes.

The main port at Turkmenbashi on the Caspian Sea is being renovated. Main shipping lines cross the Caspian to Astrakhan in Russia and Baku in Azerbaijan. Smaller Caspian ports are Alaja, Chekelen, and Ekarem. Plans call for expansion of Ekarem into a second major Caspian port. In 2006 Turkmenistan had eight merchant marine vessels of more than 1,000 tons displacement, of which four were cargo ships, two were oil tankers, one was for refrigerated cargo, and one was a combination ore and oil ship.

To maintain its neutrality, Turkmenistan consistently has refused to join multilateral military groupings of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), although it participates in the Caspian Sea Flotilla with Russian and Kazakhstani naval forces.

Turkmenistanís major environmental problems are the various effects of the desiccation of the Aral Sea; contamination of soil and groundwater by agricultural chemicals; desertification, which is reducing the stock of arable land; and a complex of conditions resulting from water levels and industrialization on the Caspian Sea. Related to the first two problems is an intensifying shortage of water, which is an absolute requirement for the development of agriculture, industry, and large population centers anywhere in the country.

Despite its vast oil and natural gas resource base, Turkmenistan is not a major player in energy markets because of the lack of infrastructure, limiting its exporting capabilities. In the past several years, the country has been increasing investment to develop its reserves and export more natural gas to countries such as China.

Russian forces began occupying Turkmen territory late in the nineteenth century. From their Caspian Sea base at Krasnovodsk (now Turkmenbashi), the Russians eventually overcame the Uzbek khanates. In 1881 the last significant resistance in Turkmen territory was crushed at the Battle of Gokdepe, and shortly thereafter Turkmenistan was annexed, together with adjoining Uzbek territory, into the Russian Empire.

In 2015, Turkmenistan built the East-West pipeline that connects the Galkynysh field to the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea. East-West has a capacity of about 1 Tcf and is situated where the proposed Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP) would link with Turkmenistan. East-West is being used to deliver gas to consumers within Turkmenistan and could also be used to send natural gas from western Turkmenistan to China. The TCP, which is a proposed undersea pipeline, would provide an outlet for Turkmenistanís natural gas to reach the European market by connecting to existing pipelines in Azerbaijan. Political issues have prevented construction of the TCP. The pipeline would have capacity of about 1 Tcf.

The construction of the East-West pipeline was initiated in May 2010. The pipeline would connect Turkmenistanís southeastern gasfields to the Caspian Sea and serve as a potential transit link to Europe using routes along the Caspian Sea. The pipelineís capacity was expected to be 30 billion cubic meters, and the construction was planned to be completed by 2015.

The Trans-Caspian Gas pipeline (TCGP) was proposed to connect Turkmenbashi City, Turkmenistan, and Baku, Azerbaijan. The pipeline would bypass both Russia and Iran and would connect to the proposed Nabucco pipeline between Turkey and Austria. The TCGP was proposed to have a capacity of 30 billion cubic meters per year and would run across the floor of the Caspian Sea at an estimated cost of $5 billion; however, the disputes concerning Caspian seabed jurisdiction could significantly undermine the projectís viability.

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