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Recent Developments in the Structuration of the Central Asian Hydrocarbon Energy Complex

Robert M. Cutler

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This chapter provides an overview of the on-going energy projects in Central Asia, focusing on Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, and to a lesser extent, Uzbekistan. It elaborates on the exploration, development and export of oil and gas projects in this region and shows how security and economic imperatives drive the Central Asian governments’ energy diplomacy. After discussing the hydrocarbon resources available, new discoveries that have increased their proven quantities, and the geo-economics governing their extraction and transports, it looks at possibilities for their transmission east to China, north to Russia, and west to Europe, including discussion of the eventuality of their trans-Caspian and also trans-Black Sea conveyance.


  1. Introduction
  2. Kazakhstan: The Kashagan and Tengiz Deposits
  3. Other Central Asian Gas Resources
  4. Looking Further West and East
  5. Conclusion
Suggested citation for this webpage:
Robert M. Cutler, “Recent Developments in the Structuration of the Central Asian Hydrocarbon Energy Complex[: Abstract]” available at ⟨http://www.robertcutler.org/ch09clac.htm⟩, accessed 23 February 2018.
The complete article is available in  Printer-friendly  full text.

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0. Introduction

This chapter reviews recent developments in the Central Asian hydrocarbon energy complex as of January 2009. Central Asia is taken to signify the five former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.[1] Only Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan have energy resources of sufficient significance to be strategic on the Eurasian level. Uzbekistan is an important gas producer for itself and Central Asia. The discussion here therefore focuses principally on the first two countries, with some reference to the third. Naturally, the geo-economic implications of developments for regions beyond Central Asia are an integral part of that discussion, representing its Eurasian and global significance.

Three phases in the evolution of energy geo-economics in Central Eurasia have already been completed. The first (1989–1994) was characterized mainly by a focus on oil, principally in the South Caucasus but also with reference to the North Caucasus and offshore Caspian and Black Seas, plus Turkey as a transit country. The second (1995–2000) was marked by a still higher role for Turkey as a transit country and by deepening plans for interconnections between Southwest Asia and Southeast Europe, as well as by the first sketches of projects heading eastward to China. The third (2001–2006) saw further development of plans for transshipment routes

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across the Black Sea and into China, as well as increased attempts by Russia to corner the market as much as possible on Central Asian natural gas.

These represent the phases of development denoted in the study of complex systems (“complexity science”) as emergence, autopoiesis, and coherence in the evolution energy geo-economics in Central Eurasia.[2] And that is also the periodization of the evolution of energy geo-economics in the Southwest Asian theater of Central Eurasia. In the Central Asian theater, it is slightly more nuanced. Since this region was torn until 1994 variously by civil war, the lack of definition of the status of Red Army (ex-Soviet) military, and complications of the financial ruble zone vs. attempts to establish stable national currencies, the phase of emergence of energy geo-economics in Central Asia proper falls only in 1995–2000, and that of autopoiesis in 2001–2006. The current phase, beginning in 2007 and stretching provisionally to 2012, is the phase of coherence.

This chapter therefore covers principally the contemporary period, i.e., beginning with the 2006–2007 transition. Its first part addresses Kazakhstan’s energy resources, in particular the offshore Kashagan oil-and-associated-gas deposit, and it discusses outlets for Kashagan’s gas and then for its oil. Kashagan’s centrality and the various possibilities for bringing its reserves to market lead the discussion then to the gas and oil in the Tengiz field. Other Central Asian gas resources are treated in the second part of the chapter, beginning with possibilities for Turkmenistan to participation new trans-Caspian pipeline project, then moving to discuss Kazakhstan’s Karachaganak field and other elements in the Cen-

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tral Asian gas picture, not neglecting Uzbekistan. The third part of the chapter looks further west and east, assessing the competition between the South Stream and Nabucco projects to Europe and, separately, possibilities for increasing China’s consumption. A brief conclusion then follows.


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[Note 1]. The Library of Congress system is used for transliteration from the Russian, and other standard systems for other vernaculars (thus “Berdimuhammedov” for the president of Turkmenistan rather than the Russian-based “Berdymukhammedov”), except when everyday usage has consecrated a familiar spelling in the English orthography.

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[Note 2]. Autopoiesis is the capacity of complex systems, and especially complex adaptive systems, to set their own goals through progressive interaction with their environment and through learning in response to this. See, among others: John Holland, Hidden Order: How Adaptation Builds Complexity (New York: Perseus Books, 1996); also Robert M. Cutler, “The Paradox of Intentional Emergent Coherence: Organization and Decision in a Complex World,” Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences 91, no. 4 (Winter 2006): 9–27. For distinctions among Central Asia (the five former Soviet republics), Greater Central Asia, Central Eurasia, and other constructs see Robert M. Cutler, “US–Russian Strategic Relations and the Structuration of Central Asia,” Perspectives on Global Development and Technology 6, no. 1–3 (2007): 109–125.

The complete article is available in  Printer-friendly  full text.
Home »  Site Map » Eurasia  | Complexity  | Energy  | C. Asia  | S.W. Asia  ]  »  This document
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Text: Copyright © Robert M. Cutler
First Web-published: 24 July 2010
Content last modified: 24 July 2010
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