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CENTRAL ASIA: Oil, Coal And Water Resources

March 05, 2018

Kazakhstan, with 102 million tonnes coal output in 2016, stands as the world’s tenth biggest coal producing country. Coal accounted for about 85% of the country’s total installed power capacity.. The top three producers of coal worldwide were China with 3,411 million tonnes, India with 692 million tonnes and the US with 660 million tonnes, as per the BP Statistical Review of World Energy 2017.

Kazakhstan holds the largest recoverable coal reserves in Central Asia and 3.69% of the world total. It is also one of the biggest coal consuming countries. The country produced 41.4 MToE of coal in 2006, which steadily increased over the next decade but again plateaued at 44.1 MToE in 2016. On the consumption front, it saw an increase from 28.3 MTOE in 2006 to 35.6 MTOE in 2016.     

The biggest economy in Central Asia, Kazakhstan also consumes more oil than other Central Asian countries. The country has seen a steady rise in its oil consumption, going up from 9 million tonnes in 2005 to 13.2 million tonnes in 2016.

It also has the most oil reserves in Central Asia. The country has 30 thousand million barrels of proven oil reserves and is far ahead of its neighbours. With a production of 1,595,199 barrels per day, Kazakhstan has also become China’s major energy partner in Central Asia as the two countries share a 1,700 km land border. Other Central Asian economies like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan produce 833,538 barrels, 230,779 and 52,913 barrels respectively per day. 

Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan each produce 1,000 and 180 barrels of oil per day, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 2016.

On the other hand, Kazakhstan has seen an increase in oil consumption in the last one decade, while the consumption in Uzbekistan has deceased. Uzbekistan has seen its oil consumption fall by half, dropping from 5.1 million tonnes in 2005 to 2.8 million tonnes in 2016. Turkmenistan, too, saw only a marginal increase in its oil consumption, going up from 5 million tonnes in 2005 to 6.7 million tonnes in 2016.

Kashgan, an offshore oil field in Kazakhstan's zone of the Caspian Sea, holds about 13 billion barrels of recoverable oil. It is the world’s biggest offshore oilfield and it has cost $46bn to develop it. The oil field is enough to power the world for up to five months. 

Kashgan’s oil reaches markets in Europe and China, making it an important non-OPEC source of energy. The oil field is developed by a consortium of China National Petroleum Corp [CNPET.UL], Exxon Mobil, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell, Total, Inpex and KazMunaiGas. 

Apart from oil and coal, water is a rather precious resource which is unevenly distributed across Central Asia and has sparked resource competition among the countries.

Only two rivers are responsible for supplying 90% of Central Asia’s water. The Syr Darya and the Amu Darya pass through Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan before moving towards Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. 

The Aral Sea basin is formed by about 116 km³ of water and the formation of the surface run-off in the Aral Sea Basin. Once the fourth largest lake in the world, the Central Asia's lake had a surface area of 26,000 square miles.  Today, the once large inland lake has shrunk to an estimated 10% of its original size, thanks to decades-old water diversions for irrigation and a more recent drought. Satellite images taken by NASA in 2014 revealed that the eastern basin of the Aral Sea had completely dried up. Out of total volume of 116 km3, 64 km3 of water is formed on the territory of Tajikistan. The rest of the lake’s water is formed in other the Central Asian countries. 

Among the Central Asian countries, Tajikistan has also the most significant hydropower installed capacity, at 5.19 GW (with annual total hydropower potential of 527bn kWh). The Kyrgyz Republic has 3.09 GW, and Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan have 2.26 GW and 1.73 GW respectively, according to the World Energy Council. 

Turkmenistan's installed hydropower capacity is almost negligible; almost the entirety of the country's power generation comes from gas-fired thermal power plants.



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