President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on Friday that Turkey had discovered in the Black Sea “the largest” natural gas field “in its history”, adding that his country would intensify its research in the eastern Mediterranean despite the tensions.
This announcement comes as Turkey has for several years been stepping up efforts to establish itself as a major energy player in the region and reduce its dependence on hydrocarbon imports which plague its fragile economy.
The reserves unveiled on Friday will not be enough to make Turkey a major exporter, but they could encourage Ankara to continue its maritime research which has caused friction with neighboring countries in the Mediterranean.
“Turkey made the biggest discovery of natural gas in its history in the Black Sea,” Erdogan said during a speech in Istanbul, adding that these reserves were estimated at 320 billion cubic meters.
The Turkish head of state assured that this discovery was of “historical importance for the future” of Turkey, which depends almost exclusively on imports, especially from Russia, to satisfy its growing appetite for energy.
“God has opened a door for us to unprecedented riches,” he said enthusiastically. “Our goal is to put Black Sea gas at the service of our nation from 2023”, the centenary year of the Republic of Turkey, he continued.
Mr. Erdogan said the discovery was made last month in the Tuna-1 exploration well by the drilling ship Fatih (“the conqueror” in Turkish).
The first indications “suggest that the discovered deposit is part of a much larger reserve”, added the Turkish head of state, without further details.
– ” Not bad ” –
Turkey consumes between 45 and 50 billion cubic meters of natural gas every year, almost entirely imported. This represents around 11 billion euros, according to the energy market regulatory authority (EPDK).
The discovery announced Friday “is not bad at all, but that does not change the situation either”, put in perspective on Twitter Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, director of the Ankara office of the American institute German Marshall Fund.
“Although relatively small compared to other natural gas fields in the world, this one will help Turkey to reduce its energy bill”, underlined the cabinet Capital Economics in a note.
“That said, there are reasons to be careful. It will take time to install the infrastructure necessary for gas extraction, ”he added.
President Erdogan aroused the expectation by saying on Wednesday that he would announce “big news” on Friday.
Markets seemed somewhat disappointed, however, with some press leaks on Thursday citing more than double the volume of gas reported on Friday.
The Turkish lira was thus down slightly against the dollar after Mr. Erdogan’s speech, trading at 7.34 against a greenback.
– Drilling in the Mediterranean –
The Turkish president also said that Turkey would accelerate its search for hydrocarbons in the eastern Mediterranean in the coming months, ignoring the European Union’s calls for de-escalation in a context of growing tensions.
“We will speed up our operations in the Mediterranean with the deployment at the end of the year of the Kanuni (drill ship), which is currently under maintenance,” Erdogan said, adding that he hoped to “make similar discoveries” there. the one announced on Friday.
Another drilling vessel and several Turkish seismic research vessels are already deployed in areas of the eastern Mediterranean disputed between Turkey, Greece and Cyprus.
Two weeks ago, Ankara sent the research vessel Oruç Reis, escorted by warships, to an area claimed by Greece, triggering an escalation of tensions.
The discovery in recent years of large gas fields in the eastern Mediterranean has aroused the appetite of the riparian countries.
Feeling excluded from sharing, Ankara has stepped up unilateral drilling, drawing the wrath of its neighbors and the EU.