Russia’s Ukraine invasion disrupted global energy markets. Europe sought alternatives to liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the Gulf and the US.
Meanwhile, the Caspian region gained importance for Europe’s energy security. Azerbaijan signed a significant agreement with the EU to double gas exports to Europe by 2027. This shift benefited China, which gained access to Russian energy originally bound for Europe.
Across the Caspian Sea, Turkmenistan, home to vast natural gas reserves, historically exports to Russia. However, recent developments indicate a shift in Turkmenistan’s energy policy.
Turkmenistan and Iraq recently agreed to explore Turkmen gas purchases. Iraq has substantial natural gas reserves but lacks investment in its gas sector.
Sanctions have hindered gas imports from Iran, prompting Iraq to seek alternatives in Turkmenistan. Although agreement details remain undisclosed, the symbolism highlights Turkmenistan’s emerging role in regional energy security.
Hungary, a European country still importing Russian gas, signed a political agreement with Turkmenistan regarding future gas exports. Historical and cultural ties and Hungary’s observer status in the Organization of Turkic States explain this move. Hungary seeks a more reliable gas source.
Positive strides have been made towards the Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline, connecting the eastern and western Caspian shores.
This pipeline would enable Turkmen gas to enter the Southern Gas Corridor, linking Azerbaijan to European markets. Russia and Iran opposed this project, favoring pipeline transport over costly LNG tankers.
Azerbaijan’s growing confidence supports pipeline construction. Turkmenistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs recently supported the project, potentially transforming Europe’s energy security.
It remains uncertain why Turkmenistan is shifting its energy policy. Economic challenges may drive this change, with the country’s leader, Serdar Berdimuhamedow, seeking new opportunities.
Global gas demand and abundant reserves make diversification appealing. Reduced Russian influence in the region due to the Ukraine conflict may also contribute.
Turkmenistan’s evolving global energy engagement benefits the region. Gas exports to Iraq, increased European supply, and the Trans-Caspian pipeline promise mutual gains.
Whether economic factors or geopolitical shifts drive these changes, Turkmenistan and its neighbors stand to prosper from an internationally engaged Ashgabat.