* ExxonMobil reopens Turkmen office, given warm welcome
* Turkmenistan needs U.S. support on gas export routes
By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT Oct 27 U.S. energy major ExxonMobil
(XOM.N) has reopened its office in Turkmenistan and said it was
keen to develop its giant natural gas resources.
Turkmenistan, Central Asia's largest natural gas producer
estimated to hold the world's fourth-largest reserves of the
fuel, is eager to triple its current annual output of some 75
billion cubic metres (bcm) within 20 years.
"Turkmenistan has great potential to be a regional energy
and economic leader given its abundance of natural gas, which is
the fastest growing fuel around the world," Joerg Weller,
general manager of ExxonMobil Exploration and Production
Turkmenistan Ventures B.V., said in a statement.
ExxonMobil, the largest natural gas producer in the United
States which is also involved in Russia and Kazakhstan, pulled
out of Turkmenistan in 2002, citing economic reasons.
Turkmen President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov met Rob S.
Franklin, president of ExxonMobil Upstream Ventures, on Tuesday
and "stressed the large potential for partnership with this
company", the official Neitralny Turkmenistan daily said on
Berdymukhamedov said "the huge experience of ExxonMobil
could be successfully used in geological exploration and
development of Turkmen hydrocarbon reserves on the Caspian Sea
shelf, and in oil processing".
Like his predecessor, late Turkmen President-for-life
Saparmurat Niyazov, Berdymukhamedov enjoys sweeping powers and
there is no real opposition to his authoritarian rule in the
reclusive desert nation.
He is lionised by a docile domestic media, but his authority
contrasts the bizarre personality cult which Niyazov enjoyed
during his life. Berdymukhamedov has also launched some
long-delayed economic reforms and is more investor-friendly.
Turkmenistan said in June that it would welcome U.S. support
to diversify its energy exports. It is offering gas to consumers
in Europe, China and Iran as it seeks to diversify supplies from
its traditional market, Russia.
Turkmenistan is also keen to to revive its ambitious
trans-regional pipeline project, aimed to bring Turkmen natural
gas via Afghanistan to Pakistan and India and known as TAPI
after the four countries through which it would pass.
(Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by William Hardy)