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(Photo courtesy if Xinhua)

Production started Wednesday in Turkmenistan from the world’s second-largest gas field when China President Xi Jinping and Turkmen leader Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov pressed two symbolic start buttons.

Turkmenistan is the world’s fourth-largest holder of gas reserves.

It is partnering with China for production and deliveries from the massive Galkynysh field.

Turkmenistan wants to reduce dependence on pipelines to Russia, which resells the gas, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post said.

“Galkynysh is an example of our sincere willingness to co-operate in this sphere … This meets our interests,” Xi said at a ceremony in a hangar about 500 km east of the capital, Ashgabat.

China took 20 billion cubic metres (bcm) last year via a pipeline commissioned in late 2009, according to Turkmen sources.

Turkmen gas exports to Russia have been reduced in the past few years to 10 bcm a year.

With the new production from Galkynysh, Turkmen gas exports to China are projected to reach 65 bcm by 2020.

Galkynysh holds an estimated 13.1 trillion to 21.2 trillion cubic metres of gas reserves.

A pipeline will be built in 2016 to transport gas from Galkynysh to China via Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, according to terms signed Tuesday.

China National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC), the parent of oil and gas producer PetroChina, is the  contractor for phase two development of  Galkynysh.

Phase one launched Wednesday for 30 bcm was carried out by contractors from China, South Korea and the United Arab Emirates at a cost of US$9.7 billion, the South China Morning Post said.