Turkey diversifies sources for gas import

Turkey diversifies sources for gas import

Turkey has many possibilities of sources for gas import in the near-term future. Besides Russia, it is not certain whether such gas will continue to come from Iran, or from the Kurdish area of Iraq or from Israel. The gas from Turkmenistan is perhaps the most certain among these possibilities over the longer term, in view of the EU's most recent action in favor of promoting the Trans-Caspian Pipeline.

Yeni Safak reports in its article Turkey’s energy security and the eastern Caspian shore that in January the EU decided on funding for the study of two energy projects, and works on a third project, in Turkey's neighborhood, or what the EU calls the "Southern Gas Priority Corridor" (SGC).

The works would provide 101 million euros to Cyprus in the context of the Southern Gas Corridor, mainly build a Floating Storage and Regasification Unit (FSRU) for anticipated imports to Cyprus of liquefied natural gas (LNG), despite the official name of the project which is "CyprusGas2EU".

The perspective, according to the EU, is to help the East Mediterranean energy-rich countries (Israel, Cyprus, and Egypt) to exploit their energy resources and to “develop mutually beneficial commercial cooperation," it said. This action is looking, therefore, to help create an LNG market for Egyptian and/or Israeli LNG exports. It has no involvement with projects such as the EastMed or CrossMed pipelines, which seek to transit gas from the region to the EU itself.

Two studies also received funding. The first involves 34.5 million euros for a study of the development phase of the EastMed pipeline, which would run from offshore Cyprus to the Greek mainland via Crete. However, this project seems difficult to justify on a commercial basis. The difficulty with this project is that it is not commercially justifiable under current market conditions or for the foreseeable future. This may be one reason why the EU made the separate allocation for Cyprus to import and re-gasify LNG.

The other study receiving funding is for the Trans-Caspian Pipeline (TCP, or TCGP for "Trans-Caspian Gas Pipeline") to the EU from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan, via Georgia and Turkey, by way of the expanded South Caucasus Pipeline (SCP-(F)X) and Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).

According to the publication EUObserver, an internal European Commission document noted correctly that "intensive coordination activities are on-going with Turkmenistan and Georgia." It stated that the Commission's sponsorship of the action is intended "to enable a timely construction [of the pipeline], as well as to give a signal ... “that the EU is pursuing the full opening of the potential of the Southern Gas Corridor."

This is therefore a favorable indication that the EU is serious about seeing the TCGP built, and that is also good for Turkey. Gas from Turkmenistan will have an impact on gas prices inside Turkey, and also it will promote Turkey's ambitions to be an international natural gas hub.

Moreover, this would provide continuity with Turkey's geopolitical aspirations since the 1990s to extend economic and cultural ties with the Central Asian states. Of course, it would help to solidify ties with Turkmenistan in particular. But it would also be a signal to Kazakhstan that gas and even oil from the offshore Kashagan deposit might find a route to world markets through Turkey.

For example, preliminary discussions have already taken place concerning possibilities for Kashagan oil to flow through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan main export pipeline. Indeed, there has been, for some time, a plan on the drawing-boards even for gas from Kashagan to join the gas from Turkmenistan to Azerbaijan and eventually the TANAP pipeline.

Conditions are also ripe for deepening relations with Uzbekistan, although it remains to be seen to what degree Turkey will seek to project its economic influence into post-Karimov Uzbekistan.

Uzbekistan is the third energy giant in Central Asia. Because of its large population, it consumes much of its own gas domestically.

But Uzbekistan has been losing markets in southern Kazakhstan and in Kyrgyzstan. It is contracted to supply natural gas to China through the Trans-Asian Gas Pipeline. Russian and Chinese energy firms are already strongly implanted in Uzbekistan, but so are those of other countries such as South Korea.

Uzbekistan's President Shavkat Mirziyoyev visisted Ankara in late 2017, the first visit of a president of Uzbekistan to Turkey since 1999. But Mirziyoyev will not depend only upon Turkey. Yet Tashkent would probably appreciate having a westward "vector" for its new foreign economic policy, to compensate against both the eastward one toward China and the northern one towards Russia. For this, the example of Turkmenistan-Turkey relations would be instructive.

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