The Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAP or TAPI) is a proposed natural gas pipeline being developed by the Asian Development Bank. The pipeline will transport Caspian Sea natural gas from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. The abbreviation comes from the first letters of those countries. Proponents of the project see it as a modern continuation of the Silk Road. The Afghan government is expected to receive 8% of the project’s revenue.
The roots of this project lie in the involvement of international oil companies in Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan beginning of 1990s. As Russia, who controlled all export pipelines of these countries, consistently refusing to allow the use of its pipeline network, these companies needed an independent export route avoiding both Iran and Russia.
The original project started on 15 March 1995 when an inaugural memorandum of understanding between the governments of Turkmenistan and Pakistan for a pipeline project was signed. This project was promoted by Argentinean company Bridas Corporation. The U.S. company Unocal, in conjunction with the Saudi oil company Delta, promoted alternative project without Bridas' involvement. On 21 October 1995, these two companies signed a separate agreement with Turkmenistan's president Saparmurat Niyazov. In August 1996, the Central Asia Gas Pipeline, Ltd. (CentGas) consortium for construction of a pipeline, led by Unocal, was formed. On 27 October 1997, CentGas was incorporated in formal signing ceremonies in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan, by several international oil companies along with the Government of Turkmenistan.
Since the pipeline was to pass through Afghanistan, it was necessary to work with the Taliban. The U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Robert Oakley, moved into CentGas in 1997. In January 1998, the Taliban, selecting CentGas over Argentinean competitor Bridas Corporation, signed an agreement that allowed the proposed project to proceed. In June 1998, Russian Gazprom relinquished its 10% stake in the project. On 7 August 1998, American embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam were bombed under the direction of Osama bin Laden, and all pipeline negotiations halted, as the Taliban's leader, Mohammad Omar, announced that Osama bin Laden had the Taliban's support. Unocal withdrew from the consortium on 8 December 1998, and soon after closed its offices in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
The new deal on the pipeline was signed on 27 December 2002 by the leaders of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In 2005, the Asian Development Bank submitted the final version of a feasibility study designed by British company Penspen. “Since the US-led offensive that ousted the Taliban from power,” reported Forbes in 2005, “the project has been revived and drawn strong US support” as it would allow the Central Asian republics to export energy to Western markets “without relying on Russian routes”. Then-US Ambassador to Turkmenistan Ann Jacobsen noted that: “We are seriously looking at the project, and it is quite possible that American companies will join it.” Due to increasing instability, the project has essentially stalled; construction of the Turkmen part was supposed to start in 2006, but the overall feasibility is questionable since the southern part of the Afghan section runs through territory which continues to be under de facto Taliban control.
On 24 April 2008, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan signed a framework agreement to buy natural gas from Turkmenistan. The intergovernmental agreement on the pipeline was signed on 11 December 2010 in Ashgabat.
The 1,680 km pipeline will run from the Dauletabad (دولت آباد) gas field to Afghanistan. From there TAPI will be constructed alongside the highway running from Herat to Kandahar, and then via Quetta and Multan in Pakistan. The final destination of the pipeline will be the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India.
The pipeline will be 1,420 mm in diameter with a working pressure of 100 standard atmospheres (10,000 kPa). The initial capacity will be 27 billion m³ (bcm) of natural gas per year of which 2 bcm will be provided to Afghanistan and 12.5 bcm to each Pakistan and India. Later the capacity will increase to 33 bcm. Six compressor stations would be constructed along the pipeline. The pipeline was expected to be operational by 2014.
The cost of the pipeline is estimated cost at US $7.6 billion. The project is to be financed by the Asian Development Bank.