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Independence: 20 Years On

World Cement,

Right place, right time

It is said that timing is everything, and Turkmenistan has really struck it lucky with the discovery of new rich gas deposits just as demand in Europe is rapidly rising. The British auditor Gaffney, Cline & Associates (GCA) has ranked the South Yolotan gas field as the world’s second largest, and raised its reserve forecast. GCA’s audit showed that gas reserves in the Southern Yolotan-Osman, Minara, and Yashlar gas fields proved to be 26.2 trillion m3 of natural gas. In fact, Turkmenistan now holds the world’s fourth largest natural gas reserves and is seeking to diversify exports into China, Iran and Europe, as well as to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. It is planning to more than treble its annual gas output to 230 billion m3 by 2030, of which it would export 180 billion m3. Gas from the South Yolotan field will provide much of this.

Information released by Oxford Economics in October 2011 mentioned that Turkmenistan’s GDP grew by 14.5% in the first eight months of this year and construction by 18.1%. As already hinted, activity is being driven by higher gas output (up 40.4% in the first six months of this year) and exports (up 76.2%), aided by new pipelines to China and Iran and a rebound in gas exports to Russia. These revenues are being used to maintain heavy state spending on infrastructure and social programmes ahead of the presidential elections in February 2012. GDP grew this year by about 12.5% and is predicted to slow down slightly to 10% in 2012 and 9.5% in 2013, boosted by construction of the Nabucco pipeline. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) has predicted that Turkmenistan will see the highest real GDP growth among transition countries – all down to the implementation of major state construction projects and the growth of natural gas exports to China.

The construction boom that began during President Niyazov’s era (1991 – 2006), encompassing luxurious palaces and government buildings, along with apartment buildings, schools and nurseries, is continuing under the present administration, with much of the work being carried out by Turkish companies.

In June, current President Berdimuhamedow announced that the country had decided to establish and encourage its own construction companies, eventually paving the way to phase out foreign contractors.

Meeting that construction demand

The Turkmen authorities report that in 2010 social and industrial facilities and buildings amounting to US$4.8 million were constructed. A complex of infrastructure facilities went into operation in the Awaza National Tourism Area and a new airport opened in Turkmenbashi. Plans for the future include a new seaport to be built on the Caspian Sea coast, and the construction of a network of trunk roads. Some 1700 km of freeways will be built across the country by 2014. The plans for this year included the construction of facilities valued at about US$7 billion. No further details are available at present, but all good news for the future of Turkmenistan’s cement industry, which is quickly responding.

In a move to display further evidence of the progressive reforms in the country, President Berdimuhamedow made a high profile visit on the eve of the 20th anniversary of independence to the newly opened Jebel cement plant, in the Balkan region. Cement from this 1 million tpa facility, which is located 18 km from Balkanabat, close by the village of Jebel, will be used for construction projects in the Avaza National Tourist Zone, which the President hopes will become a major tourist destination for domestic and international travellers. Cement will also be used for the construction of the Kazakhstan-Turkmenistan-Iran railway, as well as houses and other new buildings in the region. The Jebel plant will also manufacture oilwell cement and sulfate-resistant cement.

The general contractor was Polimeks, acting on behalf of the state concern, Turkmenneftegazstroy. The same contractor has been retained for the new 3000 tpd Koyfa cement plant now under construction close to the Afghan border. Polysius, who supplied the main equipment for the Jebel plant, has again been appointed the main supplier. The scope of supply includes a circular blending bed, additive store, 230 tph raw grinding plant and 10 000 t tangential blending silo. The kiln line consists of a 5-stage DOPOL®’90 preheater with PREPOL®-AS-CC precalciner, rotary kiln equipped with POLFLAME® clinkering zone burner and a POLYTRACK® clinker cooler. Included in the order is a POLAB® laboratory. Siemens has also been engaged by Polimeks to provide the complete electrical and automation services, including the Cemat process control system based on Simatic PCS 7 for the new line as it did for the Jebel plant in 2010. Siemens had previously been involved in Turkmenistan in 2005, when Siemens Turkey signed a contract with Kawasaki Heavy Industries to supply the process control and instrumentation for the 3000 tpd Kelete plant. The contractor for that plant was GAP Insaat, Turkey.


As Turkmenistan enters its 21st year of independence, it is evident that the remnants of the former Soviet regime are really fading, with President Berdimuhamedow adopting a number of measures that are reversing some of his predecessor’s destructive policies. He is investing considerable sums in the country’s infrastructure. At the same time it should not be forgotten that the leadership sustains its rule through hydrocarbon export revenues, which it uses to secure finance, pervasive security services, vanity construction projects, and to secure the support of patronage networks. Corruption remains a problem for potential investors, with no business leaders or oligarchs manipulating policy formation or shaping laws. It is the President and his advisers who shape the rules of the regime.

World Bank – Turkmenistan Partnership Program Snapshot, September 2011.
BOHR, A., Associate Fellow of the Russian and Eurasia Program at the Institute of International Affairs in London (Chatham House), in Nations in Transit: Turkmenistan, 2011.
Financial Times.
Oxford Economics.
BBC News.
Various Turkmenistan news agencies and historical online information.

This article is an abridged version of the full article, which appeared in the December 2011 issue of World Cement. Subscribers can access the full article by downloading the issue here.

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