Aug 12 Turkmenistan's national gas company has agreed to take a 51 percent stake in a consortium seeking to build a long-planned gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India, an official involved in the project said on Wednesday.
TurkmenGaz is in talks with two other companies over potential stakes in the consortium, which would have a capacity of 3.2 billion cubic feet of gas per day, said Mobin Saulat, head of Pakistan's state-run Inter State Gas systems.
"As consortium leader, they (TurkmenGaz) would also be in charge of the construction and operation," he told Reuters.
"It is a huge breakthrough."
The decision was taken last week in Turkmenistan, he said.
Over the decades, oil giants such as Chevron, Exxon , BP and Total have expressed an interest in the proposed pipeline, nicknamed TAPI, but the region's complex geopolitics and contract disagreements meant none ever fully committed.
Saulat chairs TAPI Ltd, a company set up to build and operate the pipeline. He said the project's estimated cost is $10 billion - about $4 billion investment and $6 billion debt.
Saulat said TurkmenGaz was seeking funding from the Asian Development Bank and other backers, but that he was unable to give specifics.
Host countries would ensure the pipeline's security, he said.
The discussions come amid plans to link Pakistan's pipeline network to gas-rich Iran if international sanctions connected to Iran's nuclear programme are lifted. (Reporting By Katharine Houreld, editing by David Evans)