Black Sea gas discovery to strengthen Turkey’s position in Russia, Iran gas deals
Hazal Özcan – ANKARA
Warships accompany the research vessel Oruç Reis as it sails in the Mediterranean Sea.
Turkey’s recent discovery of its largest-ever natural gas reserve in the Black Sea will strengthen Ankara’s position in future gas deals with Russia and Iran, a retired Turkish ambassador has said.
“From next year, we will hold new contract negotiations with Russia for natural gas. We will hold [negotiations] with Iran in 2025 too. When we were signing long-term agreements before, we were not in a powerful position,” Mithat Rende told Hürriyet Daily News.
“Our consumption was increasing rapidly, and we had to put our future under guarantee. Therefore, we were not in a particularly strong position at the table, and they were able to impose things,” Rende said.
But now, with the latest discovery, Rende said that he believes this will provide Turkey a more powerful position in future negotiations.
“Even though this natural gas reserve will cover one-third of Turkey’s natural gas consumption, the fact that this discovery has been made will strengthen Turkey’s position in the future negotiations of the contract,” he said.
Last week, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that Turkey has discovered its largest-ever natural gas reserve in the Black Sea, which has a capacity of 320 billion cubic meters. Erdoğan also stressed that initial findings reveal that this reserve stands as just a part of even bigger reserves in the same area.
When asked if this discovery will reflect in Turkey’s foreign policy or whether it will bring a shift to Ankara’s policy in Caucasia, Rende said he does not think that will be the case.
“We will still buy our natural gas from Azerbaijan. But our fingers were burnt before because of these long-term contracts,” he said.
“Maybe a chance will arise for this to not happen again. Thus, it is greatly important that we are strong at the negotiation table,” he added.
According to the 2019 report of the Energy Market Regulatory Board, Turkey imported 45.21 billion cubic meters of natural gas in 2019, out of which Russia supplied about 33.6 percent with Iran marking a 17.1 percent of the share.
Rende said this discovery will not bring a shift in the axis, and cooperation and relations with Russia will continue.
“But this is important: Turkey is foreign-dependent on energy," he said.
“It is important that it decreases foreign dependence by one third. But of course, there is one more thing; what will its position be at the energy basket? Will we be able to carry out the investments we projected in renewable energy Especially in wind and solar power. These are important as well. But in every case, Turkey’s position will be strengthened, both in upcoming negotiations and for it using indigenous resources for a part of its energy consumption,” Rende said.
“This will bring Turkey a big advantage.”
A prestigious discovery
While Rende said the discovery is a “very important economic resource,” it is also a “prestigious discovery” as well.
“Now Turkey will have the chance to show that it is a player in the upstream. Before, [Turkey] was positioned at the downstream and the midstream, but now it is in a position where it is the producing country. This is also an important development,” he said.
Rende also said that Turkey reaching its deep-sea drilling capacity is also a highly significant development.
“Having the chance and ability is important,” he said, referring to the activities of Turkey’s drilling and seismic research vessels and the data gathered from these.
“All of these are matters in Turkey’s advantage,” he said.
Boost of morale for East Med drillings
Rende also underlined the importance of this discovery to Turkey’s activities in the eastern Mediterranean, saying that it will be a boost of morale for all the personnel working in the Fatih drilling vessel.
“If they were to go to the eastern Mediterranean or Yavuz [vessel] were to continue [Fatih's] duty in the Black Sea, they will show a great effort to make a discovery in the eastern Mediterranean,” he said.
“In sum, this capacity is a significant one,” he added.
Cooperation with foreign companies should happen
When asked if this discovery will diversify Turkey’s energy supply, Rende underlined the importance of indigenous resources.
“This discovery is naturally counted as an indigenous resource. Thus, the more we increase the rate of indigenous resources, the more our foreign-dependence will decrease.”
On a question on if Turkey would be open to cooperating with foreign companies, Rende said he thinks it should happen.
“In the energy world, everybody cooperates with each other in situations like this. Even the biggest companies in the world are outsourcing when setting up their own platforms. There is always outsourcing,” he said.
“Thus, we too need to cooperate and make agreements with these companies after detecting the reserves,” he added.
Rende also underlined that extracting the resources is as important as discovering them.
“If you find something but it stays underground, then it will do no good. This is similar to someone being sick and the medication being high up on the shelve. You look at the medication, but it does not treat you. You need to find a ladder first and then get the medication for your sore,” he said in his analogy.
“No good will come from natural gas or oil under the ground. The important thing is extracting it.”