More on Afghan pipelines

jonathan flanders jon_flanders at
Sun Sep 23 14:55:20 MDT 2001

December 2000
Afghanistan Fact Sheet

Energy Information Administration

The information contained in this report is the best available as of
December 2000 and can change.

General Background
Afghanistan's significance from an energy standpoint stems from its
geographical position as a potential transit route for oil and natural gas
exports from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea. This potential includes
proposed multi-billion-dollar oil and gas export pipelines through
Afghanistan, although these plans have now been thrown into serious
question (see below for more detail).

On December 19, 2000, the UN Security Council imposed additional sanctions
against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban movement (which controls around 95% of
the country), including an arms embargo and a ban on the sale of chemicals
used in making heroin. These sanctions (Resolution 1333), which take effect
in one month if the Taliban do not comply, are aimed at pressuring
Afghanistan to turn over Osama bin Laden, suspected in various terrorist
attacks, including the August 1998 US Embassy bombings in Kenya and
Tanzania. In addition, Russia and the United States are concerned over
potential instability in Central Asia and heroin production in Afghanistan.
These latest sanctions are in addition to sanctions (Resolution 1267)
imposed on Afghanistan in November 1999, which included a freeze on Taliban
assets and a ban on international flights by Afghanistan's national
airline, Ariana. Afghanistan's government reacted sharply to the new
sanctions, ordering a boycott of US and Russian goods, and pulling out of
UN-mediated peace talks aimed at ending the country's civil war.

On November 29, 1999, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan issued a report on
Afghanistan which listed the country's major problems as follows: civil war
(which has caused many casualties and refugees, and which has devastated
the country's economy), record opium production, wide-scale human rights
violations, and food shortages caused in part by drought.

According to the 2000 CIA World Factbook, Afghanistan is an extremely poor,
landlocked country, highly dependent on farming and livestock raising
(sheep and goats). Currently, the country is experiencing a severe drought.
Afghanistan has experienced over two decades of war, including the nearly
10-year Soviet military occupation (which ended 15 February 1989). During
that conflict one-third of the population fled the country, with Pakistan
and Iran sheltering a combined peak of more than 6 million refugees. In
early 1999, 1.2 million Afghan refugees remained in Pakistan and about 1.4
million in Iran. Gross domestic product has fallen substantially over the
past 20 years because of the loss of labor and capital and the disruption
of trade and transport. The majority of the population continues to suffer
from insufficient food, clothing, housing, and medical care. Inflation
remains a serious problem throughout the country. International aid can
deal with only a fraction of the humanitarian problem, let alone promote
economic development. The economic situation did not improve in 1998-99, as
internal civil strife continued, hampering both domestic economic policies
and international aid efforts. Numerical data are likely to be either
unavailable or unreliable. Afghanistan was by far the largest world
producer of opium poppies in 1999, and narcotics trafficking is a major
source of revenues.

Energy Overview
The Soviets had estimated Afghanistan's proven and probable natural gas
reserves at up to 5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf). Afghan gas production
reached 275 million cubic feet per day (Mmcf/d) in the mid-1970s. However,
due to declining reserves from producing fields, output gradually fell to
about 220 Mmcf/d by 1980. At that time, the Djarquduq field was brought
online and was expected to boost Afghan gas output to 385 Mmcf/d by the
early 1980s. However, sabotage of infrastructure by the anti-Soviet
mujaheddin fighters limited the country's total production to 290 Mmcf/d,
an output level that was held fairly steady until the Soviet withdrawal in
1989. After the Soviet pullout and subsequent Afghan civil war, roughly 31
producing wells at Shibrigan area fields were shut in pending the restart
of gas sales to the former Soviet Union. In February 1998, the Taliban
announced plans to revive the Afghan National Oil Company, which was
abolished by the Soviet Union after it invaded Afghanistan in 1979. The
company is expected to play an important role in the resumption of oil and
gas exploration in Afghanistan.

At its peak in the late 1970s, Afghanistan supplied 70%-90% of its natural
gas output to the Soviet Union's gas grid via a link through Kushka,
Turkmenistan. In 1992, Afghan President Najibullah indicated that a new gas
sales agreement with Russia was in progress. However, several former Soviet
republics raised price and distribution issues and negotiations stalled. In
the early 1990s, Afghanistan also discussed possible gas supply
arrangements with Hungary, Czechoslovakia, and several Western European
countries, but these talks never progressed further. In 1998, Afghan gas
production was only around 22 Mmcf/d, all of which was used domestically,
as a feedstock for a fertilizer plant at Mazar-e-Sharif in northern
Afghanistan, for production of urea (which is exported to Uzbekistan), and
for power generation at a 34-megawatt station in Mazar-e-Sharif. Afghan gas
fields include Jorqaduq and Khowaja Gogerdak. Afghanistan reportedly is
importing gas from the Gulzar Baba deposit in southern Turkmenistan.

Soviet estimates from the late 1970s placed Afghanistan's proven and
probable oil and condensate reserves at 95 million barrels. Despite plans
to start commercial oil production in Afghanistan, all oil exploration and
development work as well as plans to build a 10,000-bbl/d refinery were
halted after the 1979 Soviet invasion. Afghanistan's various provinces
receive refined products from neighboring countries. In September 1999,
Afghanistan signed a deal with Consolidated Construction Company of Greece
to explore the area of Herat in southwestern Afghanistan near the Iranian
border for oil and gas. This area is believed to be potentially rich in
hydrocarbons. In the meantime, Afghanistan reportedly receives some of its
oil needs from Saudi Arabia as foreign aid. There have also been reports
that Pakistan has offered to assist Afghanistan in constructing an oil
refinery, as well as in repairing damaged roads in order to facilitate
transport of oil products from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Besides oil and gas, Afghanistan also is estimated to have significant coal
reserves (probable reserves of 400 million tons), most of which is located
in the region between Herat and Badashkan in the northern part of the
country. Although Afghanistan produced over 100,000 short tons of coal
annually as late as the early 1990s, as of 1998, the country was producing
only around 4,000 short tons.

Afghanistan's power grid has been severely damaged by years of war.
Currently, the ruling Taliban are concentrating on rebuilding damaged
hydroelectric plants, power distribution lines, and high-voltage cables.
Afghanistan has received electricity from Uzbekistan, mainly into
Mazar-e-Sharif near the border, but payment problems have previously caused
Uzbekistan to reduce power exports. On October 1999, Afghanistan announced
that it had reached agreement with Turkmenistan for electricity imports
into Andkhoy District in northwestern Afghanistan, including power to the
Herat cement plant. Turkmenistan also has discussed supplying Afghanistan
with additional electricity, with work reportedly set to begin in the near
future and to be completed within 6 months. A power transmission line would
connect the Seydi power plant in eastern Turkmenistan with western

According to Afghanistan's Minister of Water and Power, Mowlawi Ahmad Jan,
the 66-MW Mahipar hydro plant reportedly is now operational. In recent
months, a severe drought has limited Afghanistan's hydro production,
including the main plants at Naghloo and Saroobi. In addition, the
government has tripled the power tax, making power less affordable for many
Afghans. Currently, only around 6% of Afghanistan's 21 million people have
access to electricity, with the rest using diesel, firewood, or manure for
cooking and heating.

Regional Pipeline Plans
In January 1998, the Taliban signed an agreement that would allow a
proposed 890-mile, $2-billion, 1.9-billion-cubic-feet-per-day natural gas
pipeline project led by Unocal to proceed. The proposed pipeline would
transport gas from Turkmenistan's 45-Tcf Dauletabad gas field to Pakistan,
and most likely would run from Dauletabad south to the Afghan border and
through Herat and Qandahar in Afghanistan, to Quetta, Pakistan. The line
would then link with Pakistan's gas grid at Sui. Gas shipments had been
projected to start at 700 Mmcf/d in 1999 and to rise to 1.4 Bcf/d or higher
by 2002. In March 1998, however, Unocal announced a delay in finalizing
project details due to Afghanistan's continuing civil war. In June 1998,
Gazprom announced that it was relinquishing its 10% stake in the gas
pipeline project consortium (known as the Central Asian Gas Pipeline Ltd.,
or Centgas), which was formed in August 1996. As of June 1998, Unocal and
Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil held a combined 85% stake in Centgas, while
Turkmenrusgas owned 5%. Other participants in the proposed project besides
Delta Oil include the Crescent Group of Pakistan, Gazprom of Russia,
Hyundai Engineering & Construction Company of South Korea, Inpex and Itochu
of Japan

On December 8, 1998, Unocal announced that it was withdrawing from the
Centgas consortium, citing low oil prices and turmoil in Afghanistan as
making the pipeline project uneconomical and too risky. Unocal's
announcement followed an earlier statement -- in August 1998 -- that the
company was suspending its role in the Afghanistan gas pipeline project in
light of the recent U.S. government military action in Afghanistan, and
also due to intensified fighting between the Taliban and opposition groups.
Unocal had previously stressed that the Centgas pipeline project would not
proceed until an internationally recognized government was in place in
Afghanistan. To date, however, only three countries -- Saudi Arabia,
Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates -- have recognized the Taliban

Besides the gas pipeline, Unocal also had considered building a 1,000-mile,
1-million barrel-per-day (bbl/d) capacity oil pipeline that would link
Chardzou, Turkmenistan to Pakistan's Arabian Sea Coast via Afghanistan.
Since the Chardzou refinery is already linked to Russia's Western Siberian
oil fields, this line could provide a possible alternative export route for
regional oil production from the Caspian Sea. The $2.5-billion pipeline is
known as the Central Asian Oil Pipeline Project. For a variety of reasons,
including high political risk and security concerns, however, financing for
this project remains highly uncertain.

In April 1999, Pakistan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan agreed to reactivate
the Turkmenistan-Pakistan gas pipeline project, and to ask the Centgas
consortium, now led by Saudi Arabia's Delta Oil (following Unocal's
withdrawal from the project), to proceed. As of mid-2000, discussions on
this issue reportedly were continuing amongst India, Pakistan, Iran,
Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan. It remains unlikely, however, that this
pipeline will be built until the political and military situations in
Afghanistan improve.

Sources for this report include: Agence France Presse; Alexander's Oil and
Gas Connections; Associated Press; BBC Monitoring South Asia; BBC Summary
of World Broadcasts; Dow Jones; Economist Intelligence Unit Viewswire;
Financial Times Asia Intelligence Wire; New York Times; Oil and Gas
Journal; Petroleum Intelligence Weekly; Reuters

For more information from EIA on Afghanistan, please see:
EIA - Country Information on Afghanistan

Links to other U.S. government sites:
2000 CIA World Factbook - Afghanistan
U.S. State Department Page on Afghanistan and Sudan
U.S. State Department Travel Warning on Afghanistan
U.S. State Department Consular Information Sheet -- Afghanistan

The following links are provided solely as a service to our customers, and
therefore should not be construed as advocating or reflecting any position
of the Energy Information Administration (EIA) or the United States
Government. In addition, EIA does not guarantee the content or accuracy of
any information presented in linked sites.
The Islamic State of Afghanistan
Afghanistan Online
Washington Post: World Reference -- Afghanistan
University of Texas at Austin: Afghanistan Information
Afghanistan Today
Afghan Network


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File last modified: December 19, 2000


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