Thursday, 13 September 2012

Day 173 – Worst oil producing nation ever. (Uzbekistan)

First I should justify myself – I actually don’t know if Uzbekistan is the worst oil producing nation ever, but it certainly is the worst I’ve ever been to. I thought “ever” made for a catchier title than “than I’ve ever been to”.
Availability of petrol was one of the aspects of this trip that we were careful to research as much as we could, and prepare for however possible. Right from the beginning we have been on our toes in terms of playing it safe with having enough petrol, but this is the first country where it has truly been a concern. We fully expected to be resorting to plastic bottles by the side of the road in South East Asia, and even though we continued to pass an abundance of international petrol stations everywhere we went, we were always careful not to get complacent. “Just because we haven’t had any problems yet, this might be the first road where there isn’t a proper petrol station. We’ll fill up before leaving this town just in case.” Even in China we adopted the same philosophy, but still, even in the remotest of areas a petrol station would always appear before the end of a tank.
Kazakhstan had us worried a few times in the desert, but still, there always was a petrol station somewhere, and it always had some decent quality petrol. Kyrgyzstan was a breeze. Yet here we are in Uzbekistan, the world’s 55th oil producing country, surrounded by some of the most prolific, and yet petrol shortage is a daily concern.
Now don’t get me wrong, there are plenty of petrol stations, varying from a single retro bowser under a sheet of corrugated iron, all the way to a vast and shiny shelter harbouring a dozen modern bowsers, complete with convenience store and electronic signs. The problem is though that about 25 out of 30 are closed, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the state that they’re in. Of the five that are operating, four will be selling only gas and one will have 80 octane available (we’ve even seen 76 for sale). So it’s essential that we constantly have our eyes open for the all too valuable petrol, and if we find some we get as much as we can squeeze into the tank.
It is incredibly frustrating when we drive past this myriad of out of use petrol stations, yet there is a brand new one in the process of construction on every stretch of road. Surely it would be more beneficial to get the petrol to the already existing businesses before starting up new ones left, right and centre.
But what do the locals do? They can’t all just be running around on thin air? Well actually, not far off. They’re all fuelling their cars with natural gas, which apparently is much more available than, yet essentially the same price as any sort of petrol. Unfortunately we once again don’t have the correct adaptor so can’t tap into the natural gas supply. That would make life a lot easier.
So where does all their oil go? We see petrol tankers driving around. Where are they going? I have a theory that if they stopped putting so much oil in their cooking, maybe there’d be enough to supply the petrol stations.

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