Shale gas; risks and opportunities for Turkey

Shale gas; risks and opportunities for Turkey

Turkey is ready to produce “shale gas,” according to Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar.

Bayraktar, who attended the European Union Environment Ministers meeting in Vilnius recently, mentioned Turkey’s shale gas potential and said shale gas would be produced according to defined criteria without polluting the environment.

Bayraktar added that Environmental Impact Assessment reports, known as EIA, should also be taken into consideration during the shale gas production.

It is pleasing that Bayraktar has mentioned EIA.

The ministry, which is in a love-hate relationship with the EIA reports, had announced with a bylaw, which was published in the Official Gazette this past April, that major projects would be exempt from EIA.

As I have mentioned, even though the EIA part has relieved me, the question marks in my head about “shale gas” production are not few.

Like the chief economist of the International Energy Agency Fatih Birol said, the “shale gas revolution” in the US has turned all of the energy equations upside-down.

The US since 1997 for the first time has produced more than the oil it has imported.

In fact, it is calculated that in 2020 it will exceed Saudi Arabia’s production.

“Shale gas” production, which provided employment for 600,000 people in 2010, will offer 1.6 million people an employment opportunity.

This is the bright side of the medallion.

As for the dark side, there is a worrisome report recently presented by nine scientists to the American National Academy of Sciences.

Scientists who analyzed 141 drinking water wells in the state of Pennsylvania, where shale gas production hits a record high, determined that 80 percent were polluted by coal gas and some other gases.

Scientific researches about “shale gas” that have aroused big arguments in France are continuing both in the US and in Europe.

France, which had forbidden breaking rocks with the “hydraulic method” in 2011 for the production of shale gas, is after new technologies.

There are concerns that shale gas production can trigger earthquakes apart from polluting the groundwater.
For a country like Turkey that lies in the seismic belt, this is a danger that cannot be disregarded.

So what is Turkey’s shale gas potential?

Melanie Kenderdine, one of the energy experts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who was in Istanbul in April 2012 on Sabancı University’s invitation, had issued Turkey’s shale gas potential as 420 milliard cubic meters.

This is an amount that can meet Turkey’s 10-year energy needs.

Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) is conducting joint operations with Shell for shale gas in the Mediterranean, Black Sea and Diyarbakır.

TPAO conducting joint operations with Exxon Mobil on shale gas is also on the agenda.

According to Shell’s senior managers in Turkey, the operations about shale gas are still on the research stage and it is too early for tangible data.

Even when gas with commercial productivity is attained, it will probably take an average of 10 years for the gas to reach the houses and factories.

Therefore, even though the Environment and Urban Planning Minister Erdoğan Bayraktar heralded the “shale gas production”, Turkey will not benefit from this any time soon.

We have a long way ahead.

My wish is that during this time scientists in Turkey also conduct scientific researches, taking the land’s geological characteristics into consideration.

Another wish is that politicians, who have disregarded the opinions of the academic experts like in the examples of “urban transformation” and energy projects that threaten the environment, will act with more care.