ISLAMABAD - To ensure that the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline project does not remain a pipe dream, a final round of negotiations will be held on May 24 to lock down the deal on unanimous transit fee of the project.

“The steering committee on TAPI will meet on May 24 in Turkmenistan to hold a final round of talks on the gas pipeline project,” sources informed on Saturday, adding that Pakistan is expected to sign a Gas Sales Purchase Agreement (GSPA) with Turkmenistan in the upcoming May talks as there is a need to expedite the signing of the GSPA after inking the final agreement pertaining the transit fee of the TAPI gas project. They said a trilateral consensus on uniform transit fee rate of 49.5 cents per Million British Thermal Units (mmbtu) for the multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project is a milestone in the history of the country. Further, the Iranian gas will cost $13 per mmbtu and Turkmen gas $11 per mmbtu, if the crude oil price is $100 per barrel, they clarified.

It was also learnt that Pakistan will get $217 million as transit fee from India, which will be paid to Afghanistan while India will pay 49.5 cents per MMBTU as transit fee each to Afghanistan and Pakistan. Similarly, Pakistan will pay an equal amount to Afghanistan only. Again, India has already signed the gas sales purchase agreement with Turkmenistan, and Afghanistan is to soon sign a gas price deal with the latter.

Energy experts when contacted said that implementation on the TAPI gas project will help in reducing energy woes of the country, supposedly, will have special importance for the whole region as well. They were of the view that the designed capacity of the pipeline is for around 33 billion cubic meters of gas per year will also be helpful in meeting with growing energy demands. Pakistan’s growing woes to address the yawning supply and demand gap for its rapidly growing energy needs will be addressed with finally inking of the multi-billion dollar gas pipeline project agreement. They said the 56-inch diameter gas pipeline would supply 3.2bcf (billion cubic feet) of natural gas per day; including 500mmcfd gas for Afghanistan, 1325mmcfd for Pakistan and the rest for the India. However, the project is not an alternative to the Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline project.

It must be noted here that the buyers of this imported gas are the gas companies of Pakistan and India. According to the project, the highway should reach out to the largest Galkynysh gas field in Turkmenistan through the Afghan cities of Herat and Kandahar, to reach its final point at the village of Fazilka on the border between India and Pakistan. The pipeline would not only bring transit fees to Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but also contribute in generation of employment and economic activities.

The demand for natural gas in Pakistan has increased by almost 10 percent annually from 2000-01 to 2007-08, reaching around 3,200 MMCFD, against the total production of 3,774 MMCFD, according to sources at the Ministry of Petroleum. During 2008-2009, the demand exceeded the available supply, with production of 4,528 MMCFD against a demand for 4,731 MMCFD, indicating a shortfall of 203 MMCFD.