Modiarov Behzod woke up at 6 am, refreshed and geared up for yet another day of work deep in the desert.
The August sun had already begun to shine brightly and the azure-blue sky was gradually clearing up after the sandy conditions of the previous night had dissipated.
Braving heatwaves, Behzod, an operator in a natural gas field, and his colleagues headed to their workstation in the vast Karakum Desert, situated in the Central Asian country of Turkmenistan, renowned for holding the world’s fourth-largest natural gas reserves.
Central Asia to China flow
Behzod hails from Turkmenistan and pursued his university education in China. After completing his studies, he returned to his homeland to pursue a career in the natural gas industry with China National Petroleum Corp’s Amu Darya River gas project, CNPC’s largest overseas natural gas project with a peak production capacity of 41 million cubic meters per day.
The process of gas networks and their flow is highly intricate. Freshly extracted gas from over 100 wells scattered across the desert is channeled through gathering stations before being transported to the processing plant for a series of essential procedures, including desulfurization, decarbonization, dehydration and de-hydrocarbonation.
After thirty minutes, the gas reaches the border area between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan 10 kilometers away and merges into the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline, jointly operated by CNPC and its local partners.
Starting from the first compressor station, the natural gas in the pipeline will travel nearly 2,000 km eastward over the next 84 hours, traversing wild deserts and grasslands, reaching the Chinese border city of Horgos in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region.
“There are four gas sources for the pipeline network. The two main gas sources are from Turkmenistan, accounting for three-quarters of the total intake. In addition, there are gas sources in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan,” said Zuo Dong, director of the Shymkent office of the China-Kazakhstan natural gas pipeline joint venture of Sino-Pipeline International Co, adding that the pipeline network has greatly boosted the energy infrastructure interconnection between China and Central Asian countries.
New Silk Road of Energy
On Dec 14, 2009, the heads of state of China, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan jointly inaugurated the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline. Since a part of the pipeline network runs parallel to the ancient Silk Road, it has been deemed the “New Silk Road of Energy”.
In Horgos, the gas is compressed again before it is conveyed further inland. Each day, up to 160 mcm of gas can be processed here. To put it simply, 300 cubic meters of gas, enough to meet the needs of a household of three for a year, flow through Horgos in the blink of an eye.
From Horgos, the gas from Central Asia links up with China’s West-to-East Gas Pipeline, which transmits the gas further to various Chinese regions, including Shanghai, Fuzhou in Fujian province and Hong Kong.
Data showed that in 2022, Horgos Station delivered about 43 billion cubic meters of natural gas via the pipeline, accounting for 11.8 percent of China’s consumption in the same year.
Fu Mingfu, deputy general manager of West Pipeline Co under China Oil & Gas Pipeline Network Corp, said that as of now, more than 440 bcm of natural gas from Central Asia have been delivered, benefiting nearly 500 million people across China.
Through cooperation in the natural gas sector with China, Central Asian countries are also integrated into the huge energy market. In Turkmenistan, Dec 14 has been designated as the Day of Oil and Gas Industry Workers, as this date marks the official inauguration of the pipeline.
“In Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, we have created more than 11,000 temporary positions and provided over 1,600 long-term jobs. Over the 30-year operational span of the pipeline, it is also expected to generate tens of billions of dollars in tax revenue,” said Meng Xiangdong, executive director of Sino-Pipeline International Co.
Currently, the China-Central Asia natural gas pipeline network has three lines in operation, namely Line A, B and C, while Line D is under construction.
During the China-Central Asia Summit held in May this year, China proposed to forge a China-Central Asia energy development partnership, accelerate the construction of Line D of the natural gas pipeline, increase oil and gas trade, develop energy cooperation across the industrial chain, boost cooperation in new energy and enhance the peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Stronger human bonds
The New Silk Road of Energy holds greater significance than just an energy transmission line. Recently, Chen Kuan’s twin boys celebrated their 5th birthday. The children are named Yi Dai and Yi Lu, meaning “One Belt” and “One Road”, respectively.
Chen is an employee of the China-Uzbekistan natural gas pipeline joint venture company. He worked as a cook for the JV, where fate intervened, bringing him together with Agafya, who was an employee at a gas compressor station. This twist of fate led to their deep and enduring love story.
In Chen’s words, the pipeline not only connected China and Central Asian countries through an energy supply system, but also gave him the chance to meet his wife.
“The friendship between China and the people of the countries along the route is growing ever stronger, and the road to happiness in the future will only extend longer,” said Kairat Ospankulov, deputy general manager in charge of construction for the China-Kazakhstan natural gas pipeline JV.
Source : Chinadaily