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JSPES, Vol. 37, No. 2 (Summer 2012)
pp. 141-180

The Natural Gas Revolution and Central Asia

Robert W. Kolb

Loyola University Chicago

This article examines the ongoing natural gas revolution and assesses its impact on the energy industry and societies of Central Asia. The natural gas revolution consists of three related technological developments – hydraulic fracturing, horizontal drilling, and the increasing build-out of the world liquid natural gas (LNG) infrastructure. For this article, Central Asia is taken as the five “Stans” that were formerly part of the Soviet Union but that are now independent countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

The article focuses on Turkmenistan and its rich reserves of natural gas and explores the conditions under which Turkmenistan currently reaches international markets through pipelines to China, Iran, and Russia. It also assesses Turkmenistan’s future prospects for reaching additional world markets and for sustaining the markets it presently serves. Finally, the article analyzes the difficulties that Turkmenistan’s gas industry, and other Central Asia energy industries, are likely to face and the implications these continuing energy industry tribulations will have for social development in Central Asia.