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Caspian Sea: Energy Seen Important For Meeting Global Demands

A top U.S. Energy Department official says development of oil and natural gas resources in the Caspian Sea region could help satisfy a growing global hunger for energy. The U.S. is supporting the idea of multiple pipeline projects from the Caspian to Turkey. RFE/RL Senior Correspondent Frank T. Csongos reports from Washington.

Washington, 13 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- A senior U.S. official says development of Caspian Sea energy resources would go a long way toward meeting anticipated global demands.

David Goldwyn, an assistant secretary of the U.S. Energy Department, said Wednesday U.S. government projections indicate that the world will need sharply higher energy supplies within the next 15 years.

Goldwyn told a U.S. Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee that the Caspian region has the potential to produce substantial quantities of oil and natural gas.

Among the plans under consideration is a multiple pipeline project across the Caspian to Turkey to be developed, in part, with private U.S. investment and technology.

"Our Caspian policy promotes the development of diverse, stable and reliable sources of energy in an important region. Developing Caspian oil and gas expands global supplies. Creating multiple East-West pipelines helps ensure against national and international supply disruptions by diversifying transportation routes."

Goldwyn assessed worldwide energy demands this way.

"International cooperation and collaboration to increase and diversify oil supply is crucial. By the year 2015, the world's energy consumption is expected to be 48 percent higher than it was in 1995."

The U.S. congressional committee called the hearing to examine the current status of the Caspian energy situation. There have been concerns that the region is politically volatile and that pipelines would be vulnerable to terrorist attacks. The U.S. administration favors a multiple pipeline system that would bypass Iran. The U.S. considers the Iranian government a supporter of international terrorism.

Goldwyn said potential energy reserves in the Caspian region range from large to huge.

"The estimates are that regional gas and oil reserves more or less are the order of magnitude of the North Sea."

He said that it is also possible that these reserves could be even bigger -- as much as one fourth of those of the oil-rich Middle East.

Senator Chuck Hagel, chairman oft the panel, said the proven reserves in the Caspian region total between 16 billion to 32 billion barrels of oil.

Goldwyn said it is possible that there is up to 186 billion additional barrels of oil in the region.

The official said those are yet to be discovered. He also said that he is hopeful that any day now there will be good news coming from offshore exploration ion Kazakhstan.