India eyes Turkmen gas link, Qatari deals

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DOHA, Oct 29 (Reuters) India is keen to receive gas from Turkmenistan via a planned pipeline and is also considering investments in gas and oil producer Qatar to meet rapidly rising domestic demand, India's oil minister said on Monday.

Murli Deora said he was is interested in joining Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in building the link and said the Indian cabinet had already passed a resolution on this.

''India is very interested in becoming formal partner. I am not sure if now is the right time because of the elections (in Pakistan).'' An Indian oil ministry official told Reuters in Delhi energy ministers of the four countries are expected to hold talks on the pipeline in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Nov. 28 and 29.

''India, which been enjoying observer status, is expected to be inducted as a member country in the project after a formal approval by the remaining three nations,'' said the official who did not want to be named.

India was hoping to get 40 million standard cubic metres through this trans-national pipeline but the final offtake depends on certification of reserves in the fields, he said.

The idea of building a pipeline through Afghanistan has been floating for more than a decade, but conflict has hampered efforts to get it off the ground.

The project aims to export gas to Pakistan and India, both also talking to Iran on the possibility of a similar deal.Deora said this project will not affect a possible Iran link.

''Joining this project will have no effect on India's plan to participate in Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project,'' he said.

India and Iran are also expected to start building a 300,000 barrels per day refinery in southern Iran early next year.

QATAR PROJECTS Doera, who was speaking at an energy conference in the Qatari capital, also said both Indian state-run and private firms were interested in taking equity stakes in Qatar energy projects.

''We are looking at building plants in Qatar, and in other heavy industries,'' he said.

India already has agreements of 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar for 2009. It currently imports 5 million tonnes.

''That makes India one of Qatar's largest customers, the (Qatari) oil minister said he would like India to become the number one buyer of Qatari gas,'' said Doera.

Indian firms have signed contracts with Qatar to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar's Rasgas and to construct a pipeline worth million.

REUTERS KR RS1627

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