Mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction are the leading industries of Uzbekistan’s economy, despite the sector’s ever more pressing need for further development and the government’s ambitious goals to increase the share of renewable energy sources in the energy mix from 8% to 25%. If fully implemented, such a change could conserve three billion cubic meters of natural gas annually and result in a 20% reduction in the emission of harmful gases into the atmosphere by 2026. In May 2022, Uzbekistan joined the Global Methane Pledge. The country’s hydrocarbon reserves are significant: according to local industry officials, total primary energy reserves (proved and projected) amount to 5.5 billion tons of oil equivalent (TOE), including 1.5-1.6 billion TOE of natural gas, 245 million TOE of oil and up to 3.3 billion TOE of coal. These industries comprised 5.9% of GDP, with the oil and gas sector contributing 4% to state budget earnings, generating 6.3% of export earnings, and providing jobs to nearly 1% of the employed population. Uzbekistan is the second largest natural gas producer in Central Asia. In 2022 it produced 51.7 billion cubic meters of natural gas and intends to increase its production to 66.1 billion cubic meters by 2030. In December 2022, the state-owned oil and gas company Uzbekneftegaz (UNG), which produces 63% of the country’s natural gas, announced a 10-year exploration program to increase production: it expects to survey 15.6 thousand square kilometers, and drill 530 new wells at 211 new sites. Combined with prospecting and exploration, the program’s total cost will be $3.4 billion. The company projects it will discover more than 40 new hydrocarbon fields over this period, with reserves of 365 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 16 million tons of liquid hydrocarbons. For the first time, Uzbekistan will begin gas production in deep layers, for which leading foreign investors will be invited to conduct exploration in the Ustyurt region.
Despite significant reserves, Uzbekistan faced an energy crisis in anomalously cold temperatures in December 2022-January 2023 with power outages reaching the capital. On December 12, 2022, Uzbekistan signed a 3-month agreement with Turkmenistan for 1.5 billion cubic meters of Turkmen natural gas to be supplied to Uzbekistan to cover the shortfall. Technical issues related to extremely cold weather disrupted gas deliveries from Turkmenistan to Uzbekistan on January 12-20, 2023. On June 16, 2023, Uzbekistan signed a 2-year agreement with Russian Gazprom to buy 2.8 billion cubic meters of natural gas annually. Uzbekistani officials declined to disclose the purchase price to which they had agreed with an official statement explaining the price Uzbekistan will pay “was agreed on the basis of market prices in the region, as well as current prices in our republic and the implementation of reforms based on market principles.” The supply will start on October 1, 2023, with the natural gas transiting Kazakhstan via the Central Asia-Center gas pipeline. On August 24, 2023, Uzbekistan signed an agreement with Turkmenistan for the latter to supply up to 2 billion cubic meters of natural gas.
In 2019, the government unbundled the state-owned natural gas giant UzbekNefteGaz into three independent companies focused on production (UzbekNefteGaz), transmission (UzTransGaz), and domestic sales (HududGazTaminot), with the goals of improving transparency and operating on market-based price standards. Implementation of an automated system for monitoring and metering natural gas began in 2020 and should dramatically improve resource accountability. UzGasTrade JSC was created in June 2022 to purchase and sell natural gas in a centralized manner in Uzbekistan, taking over these functions from UzTransGaz, which is now responsible only for operating and maintaining Uzbekistan’s gas transmission system.
In the second half of 2022, Fitch Ratings and S&P Global Ratings affirmed a BB- credit rating for UNG with stable and negative outlooks, respectively. UNG placed its debut Eurobonds for $700 million on the London Stock Exchange in November 2021 for seven years at a 4.75% interest rate. UzbekNefteGaz and HududGazTaminot will sell 2% of their shares to the public in 2023.
The government also announced plans to halt natural gas exports by 2025 and process all domestic output of hydrocarbons into higher value-added products: the government plans to complete a total of 52 natural gas processing projects, worth $9 billion, by 2025. It is estimated that implementation of these projects will facilitate the production of $4.1 billion worth of goods, replace $1.1 billion of imports, and ensure $1.45 billion in exports. Uzbekistan wants to process 20% of its natural gas by 2026 (up from its current level of 8%). On May 25, 2023, Air Products announced a $1 billion investment in Uzbekistan to acquire, own, and operate a natural gas-to-syngas processing facility at UzbekNefteGaz’s advanced GTL (gas-to-liquid) plant producing 1.5 million tons of high value-add synthetic fuels per year.
The energy market is gradually being liberalized: customs duties and permits required for the import of liquefied natural gas were abolished in February 2021; a wholesale market of electricity and natural gas will be created for manufacturers and importers and, as a first step, large enterprises have been allowed to import electricity and natural gas since August 1, 2021; the excise tax rate on natural gas exports has been reduced to 0% and legal entities have been exempt from both customs duties on natural gas imported to Uzbekistan and excise taxes since October 1, 2021; the private sector obtained approval to begin supplying liquefied and natural gas to consumers starting from October 1, 2023. For the gradual liberalization of prices, President Mirziyoyev approved a phased introduction of independent market regulators in sectors related to the infrastructure of industries and natural monopolies, including electricity, natural gas, railways, civil aviation, airport services, roads, and telecommunications. By January 1, 2025, the functions of the Competition Committee for the regulation and control of tariffs of natural monopolies will be gradually transferred to the independent market regulators being created.
Total Local Production
Imports from the US
Total Market Size*
*Total market size = (total local production + imports) – exports
** Exchange Rates = Uzbek soums per $1.
Units: $ millions
Source: The State Statistics Committee of Uzbekistan. Data for 2023 was estimated by Post using company project implementation progress reports. Imports from the U.S. data is from the U.S. Census Bureau.
- Oil and Gas Extraction
- Support Activities for Mining
U.S. oil and gas companies may bid on contracts to supply services to the country. Specific fields include consulting, engineering, construction, equipment supply, and management. The government presently has an increased interest in licensing technologies for oil refining and gas extraction, treatment, and processing. All public sector tenders and technical requirements, specifications, documents, and procedural explanations are available on the websites of Uzbekneftegaz and UzTransGaz.
For specific opportunities, businesses should review the tenders on companies’ websites, https://tenderweek.com/en/, or contact potential partners by phone or e-mail. In general, opportunities exist in fossil fuel field development and exploration; oil and gas-bearing structure analysis; seismic surveys and deep drilling; and the construction, expansion, and modernization of production facilities.
U.S. companies and individuals interested in learning more about the oil and gas sector, upcoming procurements, and export opportunities are encouraged to visit the following websites: