Malaysia's national oil company Petronas and Total of France are in the race to win the lucrative Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India transnational gas pipeline (TAPI), Pakistan's Express Tribune reported.
It said Chevron and ExxonMobil, the top us energy firms, have dropped out following rejection of their demand for an equity stake in the project.
The report quoted sources as saying that the steering committee of the TAPI project will meet in the Turkmenistan capital, Ashgabat, on Nov 17-18 to discuss the possibility of awarding the US$10 billion construction contract.
Energy ministers of these countries will also discuss the progress on a services agreement to be signed between Turkmenistan and French energy giant Total and Petronas, the English daily reported.
Under the deal, the two companies will extract gas in onshore fields in Turkmenistan and could in return get the pipeline construction contract.
According to officials, seeing an empty field, Total and Petronas entered the fray and expressed interest in gas exploration without demanding any stake.
"Turkmenistan is negotiating the services agreement with the French and Malaysian companies, who could work as consortium leaders," an official said.
The four countries linked with the project are setting up a consortium and selecting a technically capable and financially sound company as the consortium leader, to design, finance, construct, own and operate the gas pipeline, said the report.