ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan, June 1 (UPI) -- Turkmenistan started construction of a $2 billion natural gas pipeline to link national reserves to the Caspian region, the government announced.
Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov launched production of the so-called East-West natural gas pipeline during a ceremony in the south of the country.
The government in Ashgabat said the purpose of the pipeline is to improve gas supplies for domestic consumers and bring diversity to the Turkmen gas export markets.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the pipeline would reach new and promising markets in the Caspian region, the news agency Turkmenistan.ru reports.
Russia had served as the primary importer of Turkmen gas. That relationship was strained, however, following a Turkmen pipeline explosion in April 2009 that Ashgabat blamed on Russian energy monopoly Gazprom.
Berdimuhamedov said pipeline construction would be carried out by national companies using federal funds.
The East-West natural gas pipeline is designed to carry 1.1 trillion cubic feet of natural gas along its 620-mile route.