Turkey, a country poor in energy resources, has voiced its ambitions to leverage its geographic position by becoming an even more important crossroads of supply routes and a giant energy hub, saying this would “improve” the EU’s energy security.
The 22nd “World Petroleum Congress” is underway in Istanbul, from 9 to 11 July, attended by dozens of ministers of different countries, hundreds of top executives and thousands of participants, under the theme of “Bridges to Our Energy Future”.
Also present at the congress were President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, President Aleksandar Vučić of Serbia, Prime Minister Boyko Borissov of Bulgaria and Prime Minister Edi Rama of Albania.
A similar event last year was attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On the opening night, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson received the highest honor, a lifetime achievement award from the World Petroleum Council, awarded to commerate his former capacity as ExxonMobil CEO.
Tillerson emphasised the US was eager to cooperate with Turkey on energy projects.
“Turkey is also an important partner in our efforts to promote greater energy security because it sits at the crossroads. It’s just a fact of geography that Turkey sits at the crossroads of vital energy resources along supply routes and routes to consumers.
“The United States looks forward to engaging with Turkey on projects that will increase global energy security, such as the Southern Gas Corridor and the Eastern Mediterranean Gas. These projects will enable Europe to diversify its energy sources, thereby improving its energy security”, Tillerson said, according to the official transcript of his speech.
Turkish policy ‘not driven by pure commercial interest’
Turkish Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Berat Albayrak, who is a son-in-law of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, stressed that Turkey’s energy policies were not driven by pure commercial interests.
“We will continue to support regional infrastructure projects as long as they contribute to regional peace and stability, multilateral welfare and security of supply,” he said.
Turkey consumes around 50 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas per year, Albayrak said.
“Fifteen years ago we could provide gas only to five provinces but now all 81 provinces in Turkey receive gas,” he said.
He added that in order to ensure gas supply security, Turkey increased its LNG capacity and launched its first Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) in 2016.
“The second one will also become operational by the end of this year. Gas storage capacity is also critical for us. We plan to increase it also as an emerging market with political stability,” Albayrak stressed.
Turkey’s gas storage to reach 11 bcm by 2023
Turkey will increase its annual natural gas storage capacity to 11 billion cubic metres by 2023, Albayrak said.
The Turkish plan to increase the capacity to store gas looks very ambitions. In comparison, the largest gas hub in Central Europe, at Baumgarten near Vienna, is just 8 bcm.
Albayrak said that Turkey’s daily natural gas transmission system currently has the capacity to transmit 190 bcm per year.
He added that it will increase in two years time by 400 million cubic metres.
Albarak was also quoted as saying that Turkey will issue all the needed authorisations for the construction of Turkey’s first nuclear energy central at Akkuyu this year, and construction could start in 2018. Akkuyu will be made up of four 1,200 MW VVER units and will be built by Rosatom.
Erdoğan addressed the congress emphasising the issue of energy security, which he said was under threat from terrorist groups in energy hinterlands.
“Energy security depends on elimination of terrorist organisations”
The Turkish president stressed that secure energy resources depend on the liquidation of terrorist organisations, adding that his country had paid a “huge price” in its counterterrorism fight.
In fact, the EU and Turkey differ on the definition of terrorism. The Turkish authorities tend to call their political enemies “terrorists”, including Kurdish organisations seen as allies by the West.
Erdoğan said: “Oil and natural gas pipelines, whose construction have been completed recently or are still ongoing, will consolidate Turkey’s role as an energy corridor and hub. We have successfully completed the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which transfers Azeri oil to the Mediterranean, and the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas pipeline, which enables the delivery of Azeri natural gas to our country and Europe”.
Southern Gas Corridor priority
The Turkish president said that the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) project was at the top of the agenda in terms of new projects. In the initial construction phase, a total of 6 bcm of gas will be carried to Turkey while 10 bcm will be carried to Europe via the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline project, also known as TANAP, which is the main element of the SGC.
Underlining that the launching of the pipeline in mid-2018 will pave the way for the future transport of natural gas from Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea and even the Middle East to Turkey and Europe, Erdoğan stated that the government expects the Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) project, to be completed on time and to enter into service in 2020.
“We are delighted to see the full commitment of my friend Mr Aliyev, representatives from other countries and companies to join the SGC in this sense,” Erdoğan said.
Turkish Stream and ‘new projects’
Speaking about the Turkish Stream, another important energy project that is being conducted with Russia, Erdoğan noted that Ankara and Moscow are ready to assess new projects, especially those regarding natural gas in the eastern Med and Iraq, adding that new projects can be realised if all parties adopt a “win-win” approach.
The Bulgarian press reported that Borissov discussed with his colleague Binali Yıldırım a Turkey-Bulgaria gas interconnector.
It was also reported that Russia and Turkey could build a joint hub for Turkish Stream gas.
Turkey to protect Turkish Cypriots’ rights to hydrocarbon reserves
In his speech, Yıldırım warned against the “unilateral” development of the vast gas reserves discovered in the Cyprus economic zone.
“I would like to reiterate once again that hydrocarbon resources located around the island of Cyprus belong to both the Turkish-Cypriots and the Greek-Cypriots. We have been suggesting for a long time that Greek-Cypriot leaders refrain from unilateral activities in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming days.”