KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 20 (UPI) -- The Afghan government said it's closer to finalizing a deal with a consortium of energy companies that could pave the way for gas exploration and production.
A consortium of Turkish and Afghan energy companies reached a preliminary agreement with the Afghan Ministry of Mines and Petroleum to review the potential for natural gas work in the northwestern provinces of Faryab and Jawzjan.
"We have reached a favorable and equitable agreement that will create jobs and revenue for our country, while decreasing our need to import energy," Afghan Minister of Mines and Petroleum Daud. S. Saba said in a statement.
According to the Afghan government, most of the country's gas exploration and infrastructure is in Jawzjan province. As of February 2011, the last full year for which the government has data, there were 34 wells operating in three fields with limited production. The government estimates current gas production at around 1.5 million cubic feet, about 70 percent less than the entire production from the Marcellus shale formation in the United States.
The agreement awaits final approval from the central Afghan government. According to consortium member Bayat Energy, gas reserves in the northwest provinces are some of the more promising in the region.
The region will play host to a multilateral pipeline from Turkmenistan to India. Described as part of the "new Silk Road," the project -- the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India, or TAPI -- is described as essential for regional economic and energy developments. It would draw on the Galkynysh natural gas field near the border of Afghanistan, one of the largest gas fields in the world, with an estimated 925 trillion cubic feet of reserves.