Turkmen leader claims massive new gas find

ASHGABAT Thu Nov 2, 2006 8:12pm GMT

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ASHGABAT Nov 2 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan's President Saparmurat Niyazov said on Thursday his country earlier this week discovered a natural gas field with reserves of seven trillion cubic metres.

Turkmenistan is central Asia's biggest gas exporter but the reclusive and autocratic state has never disclosed the results of an international audit of its reserves.

If the find is confirmed, it would dwarf Russia's huge Shtokman gas field. Its reserves are estimated at 3.7 trillion cubic metres.

"The day before yesterday a massive gas field started gushing, with reserves of seven trillion cubic metres. It is the South Yolotan field," Niyazov said at a meeting with German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

"So the world's biggest field is already flowing in our country," he said.

Turkmenistan produces about 60 billion cubic metres of gas a year. Russian gas monopoly Gazprom (GAZP.MM) buys most of the country's gas and controls Turkmen export routes.