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The Killid Group, March 18, 2013

Hidden wealth

Geological surveys conducted by the then Soviet Union in the seventies and eighties, and later by US geologists have confirmed the existence of vast reserves of metals, hydrocarbons and rare earth metals

By Nematullah Tanin

Afghanistan has untapped oil and gas wealth that could solve its serious energy problems and transform the country. Nematullah Tanin investigates.

The country imports 3.5 million tonnes of oil and 250,000 cubic metres of gas.

The Ministry of Mines and Industry says there are potentially lucrative oil reserves including the Amu and Tajik basins, in Katawaz in Paktika, Tirpool in Helmand and Abrez in Herat.

Geological surveys conducted by the then Soviet Union in the seventies and eighties, and later by US geologists have confirmed the existence of vast reserves of metals, hydrocarbons and rare earth metals that could be worth at least 1 trillion USD.

Afghanistan's economy at present is based largely on aid from the US and other countries. GDP stands at about 12 billion USD. Projects to exploit its mineral wealth could have reduced Afghanistan's dependency on foreign aid. "Political planners must pay attention to extraction of resources because they have vital importance for people," urges Aziz Rasouli, an economist.

A review of the status of some oil fields:

Angoot

Amu Darya Delta
Amu Darya Delta. A basin of this river in Afghanistan is said to have reserves of oil. (Photo: Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA-Johnson Space Center)

The oil field is located 6 kms from Sarpol city. Five exploring wells have been dug.

It is estimated that the wells could yield 60 million barrels. According to Minister of Mines Wahidullah Shahrani if 800 barrels were extracted daily an amount of 10 million dollars would be put in the government treasury.

Aq Darya

This field is in Jawzjan province and 8 km away from Angoot. The first exploring well was dug on May 21, 1974. Its capacity has been calculated at 2 million tonnes.

Khwaja Burhan

Thirty five kms south-east of Sheberghan city, gas reserves here are an estimated 4-5 milliard cubic metres.

Yateemtaq

This is the biggest gas field in Sheberghan with an estimated 20-25 milliard cubic meters.

Khwaja Gogardak

The field is located 22km south-east of Sheberghan city. Exploitation started on Oct 21, 1967. Twenty eight wells were dug. The gas was both exported by pipeline to Russia, and sold to the fertiliser factory in Mazar-e-Sharif.

Tirpool in Herat

Tirpool near the Islam Qala border is a vast oil field. Several international energy firms have submitted bids to develop it, says the Ministry of Mines and Industry.

Ahmad Farid Sherzai, head of Oil and Gas Enterprise, says Afghanistan imports 3.5 million tonnes of oil and 250,000 cubic metres of gas from Iran, Russia, Turkmenistan chiefly. If domestic oil and gas stocks were exploited the requirements of the entire country can be met, he said.

He lamented a situation where Afghanistan has allowed investors to take the raw materials out of the country. "Afghanistan exports crude oil, but later traders buy (import) oil at international prices," he said.

An example of this is the deal with Chinese companies to develop the Amu basin, one of the biggest oil reserves in the country. Under the terms of the agreement an oil refinery will be built locally but until then crude will be exported for refining.

Economist Aziz Rasooli thinks Afghan policymakers are "being commanded" by private industry, and not driven by public interest.

Joint oil domains

The western sedimentary basin of the Amo River, which starts from Torghondi and ends in Khamab, is shared by Turkmenistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. The Tajek basin is jointly shared by Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.

Experts have been urging Afghanistan to extract its share.

Engineer Amirzada Khosti, specialist of exploration of oil and gas mines in the Ministry of Mines and Industry says, "A draft law on shared domains has been sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Representatives of Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan would sit together and finalise the law."

Category: Healthcare/Environment - Views: 4414