* Total CEO meets Turkmen president
* Expects “concrete proposals” in a few months
* Trans-Caspian link would help Nabucco project
By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT, Nov 24 (Reuters) - French energy major Total (TOTF.PA) plans to take part in projects to produce and deliver Turkmen gas to Europe via a pipeline under the Caspian Sea, state media quoted the company’s CEO as saying on Wednesday. Total expects to make concrete proposals on trans-Caspian gas projects within a few months, Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie said in comments broadcast on state television a day after he met President Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov.
“We discussed the possibilities for taking Turkmen gas across the Caspian Sea ... and spoke about the priority of ecology,” de Margerie said. His remarks were translated into Turkmen.
“Our task is to work these issues out and come up with concrete proposals in a few months’ time. I believe I will meet again with the respected president.”
Turkmenistan holds the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves, BP data shows. The Central Asian country plans to triple annual output to 230 billion cubic metres (bcm) within the next two decades, of which 180 bcm would be exported.
The former Soviet republic is diversifying gas sales from its traditional market, Russia, and seeking customers in China, Iran, Pakistan, India and Europe.
A senior government official said last week that Turkmenistan would have 40 bcm of gas per year available to sell to Europe and that its proposal to ease construction of an undersea pipeline had won support from its Caspian neighbours.
President Berdymukhamedov proposed at a conference last week that any two of the five countries on the Caspian should be able to agree on laying a pipeline across their territorial waters. [ID:nLDE6AI141]
A trans-Caspian pipeline between Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, linking onward to Europe, would be a crucial boost to the European Union-backed Nabucco project to supply gas to European markets.
Nabucco is expected to cost about 7.9 billion euros ($11.04 billion) and is seen coming on line with about 15 bcm of gas by the end of 2014.
“Turkmenistan is always open for effective cooperation on mutually beneficial basis with existing and potential partners,” state newspaper Neutral Turkmenistan quoted Berdymukhamedov as saying.
In August, state television named Chevron Corp (CVX.N), ConocoPhillips (COP.N), Houston-based TXOil Ltd and Abu Dhabi-based Mubadala Oil and Gas as the preferred bidders for two offshore oil blocks in Turkmenistan’s part of the Caspian.
Onshore, firms from China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates won $9.7 billion worth of contracts in December to drill and build plants at the South Iolotan gas deposit, which the government estimates holds 21 trillion cubic metres. (Writing by Robin Paxton)