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Kazakhstan starts work to send gas to China
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Kazakhstan joined construction of a pan-Central Asia pipeline yesterday, a major project to link Caspian Sea gas reserves with China.

The pipeline is the first significant independent gas link connecting the former Soviet region with eastern markets while bypassing Russia. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom is currently the main buyer of Central Asian gas.

Under the scorching sun of southern Kazakhstan, Kazakh and Chinese national flags flapped in the wind as engineers assembled segments of the pipeline in a symbolic ceremony attended by senior energy officials.

"This project will be implemented in five stages with the final stage scheduled for completion by 2013," said Sauat Mynbayev, Kazakhstan's energy minister.

The ceremony was held on the open steppe 40 kilometers north of the commercial hub Almaty - one of 3 sites in Kazakhstan where construction began simultaneously yesterday.

The Kazakh link is part of a route that links Turkmenistan's natural gas deposits with China via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan.

Uzbekistan also started building its part this month while Turkmenistan launched its segment last year.

Gas shipments will start in 2010 at 4.5 billion cubic metres a year and will eventually reach 40 bcm a year. China will receive 30 bcm and Kazakhstan 10 bcm for its southern regions which face an energy deficit due to growing consumption.

China's CNPC, the project's leading operator, has signed deals with state oil and gas firms of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, giving them 50 percent stakes in their respective parts of the pipeline.

Turkmenistan, sitting on Central Asia's largest gas reserves, will be the major supplier of the 7,000-kilometer-long pipeline.

(Shanghai Daily July 10, 2008)

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