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Can Turkey Become a Regional Energy Hub? - Erkin Sancarbaba

The ongoing war in Ukraine forces the countries to face a new security of supply complications. The crisis environment in question, which threatens the interests of many countries in many ways, forces governments and companies to create new road maps by forcing sudden policy changes. Undoubtedly, energy is one of the areas that are most subject to these policy changes. However, it should be noted that the economic and political crises experienced in the past have proven that no crisis is permanent. Multidimensional conflict situations such as the Ukraine War have the potential to bring together the parties of the crisis, as well as the surrounding countries, to reach a permanent solution. On the other hand, planning long-term energy policies for the post-crisis period is important in terms of energy supply security. In this respect, it is important to exhibit efficiency-oriented and rational approaches independent of political developments in the evaluation of resources that are beneficial for energy supply.

On the other hand, the uncertainty in energy prices can be eliminated by increasing the capacity of existing stable and promising energy routes.

Turkey has the potential to become an alternative energy transmission center due to its strategic location and the fact that it has various energy transmission lines that it has been involved in the construction and operation of until now.Turkey, which has played an important role in the transportation of the rich natural gas and oil reserves around it to Europe via the Balkans, has been a key player in the Southern Gas Corridor initiative. Turkey is the closest candidate to becoming the energy hub of the region through its growing role in transporting natural gas produced in the Caspian Basin, the Middle East, the Eastern Mediterranean Basin, and Central Asia to Europe.

Turkey, which is a transit country during the transmission of natural gas from Azerbaijan, Iran, and Russia to neighboring countries, has experienced and qualified institutions and companies in the transmission of energy.

The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), which aims to transmit the natural gas produced in the Shah Deniz Gas Field in the Caspian Sea and other gas fields in the south of the Caspian Sea to Turkey and then to European countries, plays a critical role in meeting the natural gas needs of Europe. The pipeline has a natural gas transmission capacity of 16 billion cubic meters per annum. This capacity could reach 31 billion cubic meters per year with the addition of five compressor stations to the pipeline route. Increasing natural gas production in the Shah Deniz field increases the strategic importance of the TANAP project. In 2021, approximately 23 billion cubic meters of natural gas and more than 4 million tons of natural gas condensate were produced at the Shah Deniz Gas Field, with the increase in production capacity at the Shah Deniz-2 Gas Field. The total natural gas production capacity of the existing facilities in Shah Deniz is approximately 72 million cubic meters per day and 26 billion cubic meters per annum. Existing production is expected to increase in the near future. BP, the largest shareholder of the Shah Deniz Consortium, announced in July 2021 that production began on the Shah Deniz-2 East South Flank. Increasing natural gas production in the Caspian Sea energy basin has the potential to contribute to the diversification of natural gas importers and its orientation towards new alternatives, especially in the European Union.

Another project that increases Turkey's strategic importance is the Turkey-Greece Natural Gas Interconnection (ITG) project, which provides natural gas transmission from Turkey to Greece. In 2007, the natural gas supply started through the pipeline. The natural gas pipeline between the two countries has a gas transport capacity of 11.5 bcm per annum. Another point that makes this project important is the possibility of the realization of the pipeline project between Greece and Italy, which is the continuation of the pipeline between Turkey and Greece and has not yet gone beyond the planning stage. If the pipeline, whose technical feasibility has been completed, is put into practice in the future, natural gas will be supplied to Italy via Turkey.

In addition to the expected capacity increases in existing projects, one of the leading issues concerning Turkey's medium and long-term energy targets is the developments in the gas fields in the Eastern Mediterranean. Establishing an energy corridor in the Eastern Mediterranean does not seem possible with current approaches, due to the problems experienced in the feasibility of the projects planned to transport the Eastern Mediterranean natural gas to Europe and the problems experienced by these projects in attracting investments. On the other hand, the Turkey-Israel natural gas pipeline idea, which has started to be evaluated by the international public and has a higher chance of being implemented than its competitors, has the potential to create an energy corridor that can positively affect the welfare of the region. Bringing the reserves in the Tamar and Leviathan gas fields off the coast of Israel to the European market will pave the way for the European Union to achieve its long-term policy goals in the field of energy. Since it is a relatively short route compared to other pipeline projects remaining in the planning stage, Turkey offers opportunities in terms of transmitting Israeli gas to Europe. Turkey's concrete will and diplomatic effort for the implementation of the Eastern Mediterranean energy corridor are important in terms of establishing regional cooperation.

The plan to transport gas reserves in Central Asia to Europe via Turkey within the scope of the Southern Gas Corridor is another comprehensive project in the planning phase. Through the Trans Caspian Natural Gas Pipeline, which is still in the planning stage, Turkmen natural gas is planned to be transported to Azerbaijan under the Caspian Sea, then to Georgia and Turkey with the existing pipelines, and finally to Europe. The natural gas transmission capacity of the planned pipeline project is planned to be 10-16 bcm per year. The Trans-Caspian Natural Gas Pipeline plan has high strategic importance for Europe, as it will expand the sphere of influence and capacity of the Southern Gas Corridor, if implemented. Turkey has the infrastructure to cope with the capacity increase that will occur in energy transmission with the introduction of Turkmen gas into the Southern Gas Corridor.

The existence of the crisis on the agenda will encourage Turkey to increase the dimensions of its cooperation with its neighbors. Increasing natural gas imports from Iraq to Turkey have come to the fore in recent months. In the short term, it will be meaningless to have high expectations due to the insufficient infrastructure in Iraq and the inability to fully establish market security.

However, in the long run, delivering Iraqi natural gas to Turkey will both meet Turkey's energy needs in the domestic market and contribute to an increase in the amount of natural gas delivered to Europe. The current crisis environment, which also spread to the global energy markets, necessitated the construction of new and versatile energy policies for countries. The establishment of energy supply security must be at the center of energy policies to be planned and implemented. The developments experienced in recent months necessitate the orientation of the countries to new energy routes to guarantee their energy security. Increasing the capacity of alternative energy transmission lines that have already been put into practice is seen as a reasonable option in terms of establishing a stable energy supply. The Southern Gas Corridor, which is among one of the most successful energy projects in recent history, offers opportunities to the European Union and other European countries in terms of turn to alternative natural gas routes. In the long term, it seems possible that various natural gas fields in the region will be included in the Southern Gas Corridor through new natural gas pipelines. Turkey's strategic importance is great in providing the energy needs of both its region and Europe by creating new energy corridors. Turkey, which is ready to offer constructive solutions to overcome the current energy crisis, demonstrates a concrete will for the establishment of new energy routes that have the potential to be one of the important tools of regional development. Thanks to its advanced infrastructure, institutions, and companies with years of experience in the field of energy, T.urkey is moving forward to become the future energy hub of the region.


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