What is going on with ‘Turkish Stream’ pipeline project?

What is going on with ‘Turkish Stream’ pipeline project?

The planned pipeline project between Russia and Turkey to carry gas into European markets, known as “Turkish Stream,” may be one of the most mysterious projects in recent years. 

We have been unable to see more than a few sentences about the project, mainly in Russian media outlets. Official announcements on it are very rare. 

Let’s look at the most recent developments and then dig into what we know about the Turkish Stream. This examination will most probably only lead us to more unknowns, rather than known facts. 

The head of Russian gas producer Gazprom stated on May 8 that the firm had decided to start building the Turkish Stream pipeline and that preparations to build the undersea stretch of the pipeline were under way.
“Gazprom has moved to the construction stage of the sea part of the Turkish Stream pipeline,” Gazprom chief executive Alexei Miller said in an interview with a Russian television.

Earlier, he said the pipeline would become operational in December 2016. “An agreement [between Russia and Turkey] has been reached on operational commissioning, and gas deliveries via the Turkish Stream will start in December 2016,” he said. 

However, we do not know which part of the construction has started. The Russian firm may be reviving the infrastructure that it built for the South Stream for around 5 billion euros, but we cannot be sure. 

What’s more, Turkish government officials continue to recall that what was signed in December 2014 was nothing more than a memorandum of understanding, not a full agreement. So nothing has yet been finalized. Talks have been continuing since then, but no progress has been cited over the proposed pipeline by Turkish officials. 

The new pipeline to Turkey is expected to have an annual capacity of 63 billion cubic meters. Russian President Vladimir Putin gave some details during his visit to Turkey at the end of 2014, during which he said the South Stream project was scrapped and it would be replaced by the new pipeline. A total of 14 bcm is expected to be delivered to Turkey, which is Gazprom’s second biggest customer in the region after Germany.

This sounds very good for Turkey on the road to reaching its goal of becoming an energy hub. It is, however, uncertain which European countries will want to buy the gas from the Turkish Stream, rather than any other future pipeline via other countries. 

It is no secret that Europe has been trying to decrease its deep dependency on Russian gas. Europe imports around a third of its gas from Russia. Figures show that around 20 percent of the U.K. and France’s gas comes from Russia, but six of the countries that are closest to the Russian border are completely reliant on it. 

It is, however, unknown whether the planned Turkish Stream will overcome the legal disputes that its predecessor, South Stream, suffered. The South Stream project faced a number of serious legal problems in its contacts with EU institutions. For instance, the European Commission said some of the intergovernmental agreements that Russia had signed with the countries through which the pipeline was to run did not comply with EU law in 2013. 

In sum, there is no doubt that there should be fewer unknowns for such a remarkable project as the Turkish Stream.