ASHGABAT, May 6 (Reuters) - Turkmenistan, Central Asia’s biggest natural gas producer, expects foreign investment in its energy sector to double this year to $4 billion, a government official said on Wednesday.
The Caspian country, which exports most of its gas to Russia, is keen to open up its oil and gas resources to foreign energy companies as it seeks to diversify its economy.
The government official told Reuters that foreign direct investment, mainly from companies operating under production sharing agreements with Turkmenistan, was expected to rise to $4 billion in 2009 from $2.2 billion last year.
“The Caspian Sea shelf remains a priority in terms of foreign investment,” the official said, adding the government was in talks with BP Plc (BP.L), Chevron Corp (CVX.N) as well as Russian gas producer Itera on various investment projects.
The official did not elaborate on the projects. The companies were not immediately available to provide details.
Turkmenistan produces about 75 billion cubic metres of gas a year and sells about 50 bcm to Russia’s Gazprom (GAZP.MM). It also has significant reserves of oil and wants to take part in the Nabucco gas pipeline project to Europe.
Last year Britain’s Gaffney, Cline & Associates classified a Turkmen gas field as one of the world’s biggest, boosting the country’s position as a potential new investment destination.
Western companies has been keen to develop closer ties with the ex-Soviet republic since President Kurbanguly came to power in late 2006. Among those already doing business in Turkmenistan are Dragon Oil DGO.I, Malaysia’s Petronas [PETR.UL] and others.
Chinese and other Asian companies have also shown interest as Berdymukhamedov has promised to attract more foreign investment and improve the country’s business climate. (Reporting by Marat Gurt, writing by Maria Golovnina, editing by Anthony Barker)