Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Turkmenistan, an environmental disaster and not likely to change

Here's some alarming news, as if we needed more. Greenhouse gases from the oil and gas fields of Turkmenistan (where? you say) are huge and growing, equivalent to the entire annual CO2 output of a developed country like the UK.

The emissions, which are described as "mind-boggling" are mainly in the form of vented methane, which is harder to monitor than carbon dioxide but some 80 times more potent (over 20 years). There is some evidence that Turkmenistan deliberately changed from flaring (burning) its methane (which effectively converts it into CO2) to venting it unburned specifically because it is harder to detect and  monitor. 

Turkmenistan is the world's worst for super-emitting methane leaks, far outstripping even the USA and Russia.

And this does not even include Turkmenistan's offshore oil and gas installations in the Caspian Sea, which are even harder to monitor.

Turkmenistan, which is China's second-largest gas provider after Australia, uses ageing Soviet-era equipment and practices in its oil and gas fields. Although upgrading to more modern technology and processes would vastly improve its GHG profile, that is probably not going to happen any time soon. Turkmenistan has steadfastly refused to join the Global Methane Pledge to cut emissions, and does not seem very interested in other global climate change initiatives.(although technically it did sign onto the Paris Agreement on Climate Change). 

It doesn't help that Turkmenistan is one of the most closed and repressive states in the world, vying with North Korea for the title of least-visited country. Although huge, the country is mainly desert and extremely inhospitable to life. Outside of the capital, its inhabitants are largely nomads. It has a one-party government, and is ruled with a rod of iron by a secretive and unpredictable dictator-president. 

So, all things considered, Turkmenistan is not a club-joiner or a conference-attender, and is probably not very amenable to bend to international moral pressure from the West (or any other part of the world for that matter).

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