Total’s Tajik Move Aims for Gas From Same Basin as Turkmen Giant


Total SA’s move into Tajikistan, a former Soviet republic known for growing melons and cotton, aims to produce natural gas for export to neighboring China.

Total’s venture with China National Petroleum Corp. and Tethys Petroleum Ltd., formed in December, plans to drill the Bokhtar license, which may hold an estimated 114 trillion cubic feet of gas, twice Norway’s proven reserves, according to Tethys. Bokhtar shares geology with Turkemistan’s South Yoloten field, the world’s second-largest, and gas-producing regions of Uzbekistan, according to David Robson, executive chairman at Tethys. The two central Asian nations already pipe gas to China.

Bokhtar “is part of the same Amu Darya Basin with big discoveries you’ve seen in Turkmenistan,” Michael Borrell, a senior vice president for Central Asia at Total, told reporters yesterday in London. “CNPC as a partner potentially brings with it a large market outlet.”

The successful development of gas in Tajikistan, a country with little oil and gas production, would create another impediment to Russia becoming a supplier to China, the world’s fastest-growing major economy. OAO Gazprom, Russia’s export monopoly, has been unable to reach a deal with Chinese customers after more than a decade of negotiations, while other former Soviet republics forged agreements.

The Bokhtar contract area covers 35,000 square kilometers (13,500 square miles), an area larger than Belgium, and combined with crude holds an estimated 27.5 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources, according to Tethys, which already produces light oil from shallow wells in Tajikistan.

The partners plan to invest about $80 million to explore Bokhtar in the next two years and expect to drill the first well, to a possible depth of more than 6 kilometers (3.7 miles), as soon as next year. Tethys has collected samples that show deeper wells may either find “very light oil” or “very wet gas,” Robson said.

In the former Soviet Union, “Tajikistan was an area where they produced a lot of cotton, they produced water melons, but they didn’t really drill for oil and gas” deep underground, he said today in an interview in London. “Now Tajikistan is an independent country they want its resource to be developed.”