Natural resources, energy and environment
Turkmenistan is one of the world’s largest producers of natural gas. The supply of oil is also significant. There are also plenty of mineral salts, which are mainly extracted in the Gulf of Kara-Bogaz-Gol on the Caspian Sea. Brown coal deposits have also been found.
Gas and oil pipelines were pulled over Soviet territory during the Soviet era (c. 1920–1991), which, after Turkmenistan’s independence in 1991, became an obstacle to gas and oil exports to countries other than former Soviet republics. Conflicts with Russia mainly on oil and gas prices led to Turkmenistan gradually breaking its dependence on the former Soviet market.
- COUNTRYAAH: Major exports by Turkmenistan with a full list of the top products exported by the country. Includes trade value in U.S. dollars and the percentage for each product category.
In 1997, the first pipeline to Iran was completed and in 2009 a gas pipeline was opened for China via Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. The following year, a second gas pipeline was opened for Iran, at the same time as Turkmen oil began pumping via Azerbaijan (where it is transported in tankers) and Georgia to the Turkish port city of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean. Thus, Turkmenistan could export to Europe without going through Russia. Turkmenistan has subsequently concluded an agreement with Afghanistan, Pakistan and India to build a gas pipeline to these countries.
Natural gas is extracted from fields on land and out in the Caspian Sea. The state gas company Türkmengaz controls the oil and gas industry, but the extraction is done in collaboration with a number of foreign companies from, for example, China, South Korea, the US and Dubai.
- Abbreviationfinder: A popular acronym site in the world covering abbreviation for each country. For example, TM stands for Turkmenistan. Visit itypeusa for more information about Turkmenistan.
One problem is that there are not enough refineries in the country for processing the oil before export. An expansion of capacity is ongoing and is expected to be completed by 2030.
The gas and oil resources mean that Turkmenistan has no energy supply problems. Electricity is generated in gas-fired thermal power plants. The surplus electricity is exported to Turkey, Iran and Afghanistan, among others.
Turkmenistan is struggling with major environmental problems. Along the shores of the Caspian Sea, seals were once a common sight. Nowadays, about a tenth of the stock that remained a century ago remains. The species is considered endangered by hunting and industrial emissions, not least from oil recovery.
The UN environmental program Unep has warned against large quantities of uncontaminated wastewater, but also radioactive substances from nuclear power plants. Much of the pollution reaches the lake via the Volga River in Russia, which flows into the Caspian Sea. The stock of the valuable deer, which is fished for caviar, has also decreased dramatically.
The water shortage is extensive. Turkmenistan’s ambition during the Soviet era to become a major cotton producer has contributed to one of the world’s worst environmental disasters. Huge amounts of artificial fertilizers and pesticides have been used and extensive expansion of irrigation has almost drained the Aral Sea, located in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. The Karakum Canal, which was built by Soviet prisoners, divert water from the Amu-Darja River to the cotton fields. This means that the Aral Sea is largely replaced by the salt desert. Subsequently, the winds have spread the salt northwards where the soil is slowly destroyed and the water becomes undrinkable. In 2007, according to some sources, the Aral Sea had shrunk to a tenth of its original size, but since then the water level is said to have increased again.
Also, a dam building in the secluded bay of Kara-Bogaz-Gol in the Caspian Sea in the 1980s caused great environmental damage. The construction is believed to have changed the water level in the large lake, which in turn led to drought and flooding.
Despite these experiences and several warnings from environmental organizations, the former President Nijazov in 2000 launched an idea to create an artificial lake in the Karakum desert. The lake is intended to become a reservoir for irrigation. Work on building the lake began in 2002 and is expected to take a couple of decades to complete.
FACTS – ENERGY AND ENVIRONMENT
Energy use per person
5,040 kilos of oil equivalents (2014)
Electricity consumption per person
2759 kilowatt hours, kWh (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions in total
68 423 thousand tonnes (2014)
Carbon dioxide emissions per inhabitant
12.5 tonnes (2014)
The share of energy from renewable sources
0.0 percent (2015)
The promised land of corruption
The organization Transparency International ranks Turkmenistan as the world’s third most corrupt country.
The President becomes the “hero of the nation”
Parliament is voting for a proposal to give President Berdimuhamedow the title of “hero of the nation” – an epithet that Nijazov was awarded three times.
Explosion in weapons storage
An explosion in an armory outside Ashgabat requires many casualties. The regime states that the death toll is 15, while other sources say hundreds of people may have been killed.
New cult of personality under construction
President Berdimuhamedow is honored with the honorary title “Arkadag” (The Guardian of the Mountains). Critics fear that the president is developing his own personal cult, similar to what Nijazov created around himself (see Modern History).
Nijazov’s book is deleted from the syllabus
The compulsory degree in compulsory schools on the content of Nijazov’s book Ruhnama is abolished by the government. The compulsory university courses on Ruhnama are also abandoned.