Media Highlights of the Week
Equinor Signs MoU on Renewables in Azerbaijan
A Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by representatives of Azerbaijan and Equinor, laying the foundation for the Norwegian energy giant to begin developing investment opportunities in the South Caucasian republic. On February 25, Deputy Minister of Energy Samir Valiyev and Equinor manager for Azerbaijan Fawad Quraishi inked the document in a formal ceremony. Equinor is following on the heels of BP, which signed their own Memorandum of Understanding on Azerbaijani renewables in December 2018. Azerbaijan has strong potential for alternative energy investment, especially in solar energy, and the government has set a goal to produce 30 percent of its power with renewables by 2030.
Bulgarian Energy Minister Details Plans for Azerbaijani Gas
Bulgarian Energy Minister Temenuzhka Petkova, while in Azerbaijan for a meeting of the Southern Gas Corridor’s (SGC) Advisory Council, gave an interview on February 25 in which she spoke about Bulgaria’s plans for utilizing Azerbaijani gas. She noted that state gas company Bulgargaz EAD has a supply agreement with the Shah Deniz Consortium for 1 bcm/year, meaning that Azerbaijani natural gas will supply 25-30 percent of Bulgaria’s need starting in 2020. Petkova also expressed great interest in developing a Balkan Gas Hub with Azerbaijan as one of the main suppliers. A feasibility study of the Balkan Gas Hub is underway, with investment in the project contingent on its results.
Kazakhstan Bans Rail Import of Gasoline from Russia
Kanat Bozumbayev, the Energy Minister of Kazakhstan, recently announced the imposition of a ban on rail imports of Russian gasoline. The ban has an initial term of three months but may be extended in the future. Bolat Akchulakov, Deputy Energy Minister of Kazakhstan, spoke about the dynamics of the Kazakh gasoline market during a meeting of the Senate Committee on Economic Policy. Akchulakov explained that recent refinery modernization expanded domestic production capacity for gasoline, but “since we cannot export anywhere, we overproduce gasoline: there are more than 350,000 tons in tanks.” The latter figure amounts to approximately a month’s worth of production, suggesting that the ban on Russian imports is intended to ameliorate domestic oversupply.
Uzbekistan Seeks $300 Million Loan from Russia’s Gazprombank for Gas Complex
Uzbekistan has expressed interest in taking out a $300 million to invest in capital improvement at the Shurtan gas and chemical complex. The plant, owned by state energy company Uzbekneftegaz, produces polyethylene plastic and processed natural gas from raw hydrocarbon inputs. The loan would enable the plant to increase production, helping Uzbekistan move up the value chain in oil and gas by producing more manufactured products.
Nazarbayev Appoints New Prime Minister
President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev appointed Deputy Prime Minister Askar Mamin as the country’s new Prime Minister on February 25. President Nazarbayev fired the entire government last week in response to stagnating living conditions. Meanwhile, former Secretary of State Gulshara Abdykalikova has been approved as Deputy Prime Minister, Dauren Abayev has become Minister of Information and Social Development, and Yerbolat Dossayev has taken over as Chairman of the National Bank.
Azerbaijan and EU Hold Another Round of Talks
A delegation from the European Union (EU) visited Azerbaijan to continue negotiating a new agreement to define the strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the EU. The visiting delegation was led by European Commission’s Directorate General for Trade, Petros Sourmelis. This round of conversation focused mostly on the trade sphere in Baku.
Afghanistan and Turkmenistan Sign Strategic Partnership Agreement
Presidents Ashraf Ghani and Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov signed a Strategic Partnership Agreement between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan in Ashgabat. The document declares the two countries’ intent to cooperate on economics, trade, transit, and counterterrorism. The leaders also signed seven Memorandums of Understanding on other issues like cultural exchange, customs, and energy.
Azerbaijan, OSCE PA Discussing Expanded Bilateral Cooperation
Head of Azerbaijan’s Delegation to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly Bahar Muradova has held several bilateral meetings to discuss increased cooperation between Azerbaijan and the OSCE PA. Muradova met with OSCE PA President George Tsereteli and Chair of the Political and Security Affairs Committee of OSCE PA Filippo Lombardi.
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan Support Lapis Lazuli Corridor via Azerbaijan
Turkmenistan and Afghanistan released a joint statement expressing interest in implementing a regional transit project through Azerbaijan after negotiations between Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. The project, known as the Lapis Lazuli Corridor, is a joint undertaking by Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Turkey and Turkmenistan and is meant to connect Afghanistan’s Herat Province to Ashgabat and then through the Caspian port Turkmenbashi on to Baku, Tbilisi, and Ankara.
Azerbaijan to Open New Persimmon Processing Plants
Azerbaijan is soon opening a new persimmon processing plant in Ganja, according to Chairman of the Persimmon Producers and Exporters Association Gadir Yusifov. The plant will be able to produce frozen persimmons. Azerbaijan’s export capacity for persimmons is 5,400 tons, a quantity that goes mostly to Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakhstan and the United Arab Emirates.
South Korea and Turkmenistan Working to Expand Economic Ties
The South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy announced that it held a meeting with Turkmen officials to discuss expanding economic cooperation between the two countries. Specifically, South Korea expressed hope for collaboration in energy and synthetic fibers, while Turkmenistan wants to work with South Korea’s agriculture and fishing sectors.
Kazakhstan Improves OECD Risk Ranking
Kazakhstan has risen from the OECD’s sixth group to its fifth group in an assessment conducted by the body’s Working Group on Export Credits and Credit Guarantees of the Directorate for Trade and Agriculture. The assessment gauges credit risk based on the practice of making payments, the financial condition of the country, and its economic situation.
Azerbaijan to Participate in Discussions of New Caspian Sea – Black Sea transport route
Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will take part in the ministerial meeting on the Caspian Sea – Black Sea International Transport Corridor project (ITC-CSBS), Leyla Abdullayeva, head of the press service of the Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference on February 25. According to her, the meeting will take place on March 4 in Bucharest, Romania.
Digital Kazakhstan Increases Productivity and Reduces Costs
Digital Kazakhstan’s initiatives have had a $579 million impact on Kazakhstan’s economy and created over 43,000 new jobs according to Minister of Information and Communication Dauren Abayev. Digital innovation has increased labor productivity by 10 percent, energy savings by up to 33 percent and the equipment utilization rate by 50 percent in energy, mining and metallurgical facilities.
(Sources: Astana Times, AzerNews, Azertag, Kazinform, News.am, Reuters, RFE/RL, Tolo News, Trend News Agency, and Yonhap News Agency.)