Turkmenistan's president said on Thursday the isolated Central Asian state had the capacity to almost quadruple gas exports in the next 20 years and was ready to meet demand from Europe.
The country's giant South Yoloten-Osman group of fields alone were now believed to contain a total of 18 trillion cubic metres of gas, President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov said at a rare news conference.
That compared with 14 trillion found in a 2008 audit.
He said that Turkmenistan's total gas reserves were estimated at 24.6 trillion cubic metres.
"Our gas reserves will last for many decades to come," he said describing the deposits discovered at the South Yoloten-Osman fields as "colossal".
There has on occasion been controversy about the size of Turkmenistan's much-touted gas reserves, which the European Union hopes can be used to lessen Europe's dependence on Russian gas.
Last year Russian media reports said Turkmenistan had massively overstated its gas reserves by two or three times but this was vehemently denied by the British firm that carried out an audit in 2008.
Berdymukhamedov said that Turkmenistan planned to produce 230 billion cubic metres of gas anually by 2030 and 180 billion cubic metres would be exported annually.
Official figures for 2010 have yet to be published, but in 2009 Turkmenistan produced 75 billion cubic metres of gas and planned to export 50 billion cubic metres.
"Turkmenistan is looking at the possibility of the export of energy to the promising European market," he said.
"The interests of Turkmenistan as a leading exporter of natural gas coincide with those of the European Union, where a growth in imports is forecast over the next decade."
Currently, Turkmenistan only exports gas directly to Russia, Iran and energy-hungry China.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Turkmenistan became one of the world's most secretive states under the rule of eccentric leader Saparmurat Niyazov.
Since coming to power after his predecessor's death in 2006, Berdymukhamedov has opened the country to more foreign investment and promised cautious economic reforms.
However critics have argued that his willingness to attract foreign capital has not been matched by any desire to implement any serious political reforms.
Source: AFP Global Edition