Turkey has made great discoveries in recent years by carrying its hydrocarbon exploration activities to the seas, which gained momentum as of the 21st century. Turkish Petroleum Cooperation (TPAO), which carries out state-owned hydrocarbon exploration activities has been rising since 2004 in the Black Sea. Hydrocarbon exploration activities first started with seismic activities, and at this stage, as a total 142,000 km of two-dimensional (2D) seismic and 37,610 km2 of three-dimensional (3D) seismic data were accessed. With the data collected from these studies, TPAO has drilled 6 deep sea and 10 shallow sea exploration wells, 16 of which are in total. In addition, the number of wells has been increased in promising areas, such as the Akçakoca-3 and Akçakoca-4 wells.
Promising data for natural gas were obtained as a result of the activities of the Barbaros Hayrettin Paşa Seismic Research vessel, which was launched in May 2019, in the Sakarya Gas Field, before the great discovery made in 2020 in the Black Sea. As a result of the detection of gas reserves in the region, Fatih, the first drilling ship that Turkey added to its inventory in May 2018, was sent to the area on 29 May 2020. On 21 August 2021, the natural gas discovery of 320 billion m3 in the Tuna-1 Well by the Fatih drilling vessel was announced. Tuna-1 well is located in Turkey's Exclusive Economic Zone in the Black Sea. This discovery, ranked second among the discoveries made in the world in 2020. The president of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, points out in his statement that the finding of 320 billion cubic meters corresponds to a value of 80 billion dollars and that this invention is a turning point for Turkey. After this discovery, which is an important step in Turkey's hydrocarbon exploration activities, in October 2020, the existence of an 85 billion cubic meters natural gas reserve was also found in the Tuna-1 well. Thus, Turkey's total amount of natural gas detected in the Tuna-1 Well has reached 405 billion cubic meters.
Another important discovery in the Black Sea was made in the Amasra-1 well, which was announced at the Filyos Port and Natural Gas Operating Facility ceremony in June 2021. With the detection of 135 billion cubic meters of natural gas reserve in this well, the total reserve in Sakarya Natural Gas Field increased to 540 billion cubic meters. Another important aspect of this discovery was the explanation of how natural gas would be brought to the country at the ceremony. According to this plan, Turkey would first establish natural gas production systems on the seabed, establish a facility to process natural gas on land in the second step, and finally establish a pipeline to provide the connection between sea and land. The plan is aimed to be completed and delivered to the public in 2023. In addition, drilling ships continue to work. After the exploration in Amasra-1, Fatih concluded its exploration activities in Turkali-1 and Turkali-2 wells.
In the Black Sea, there are currently 16 vessels, 3 of which are involved in the search for drilling vessels. Joining the TPAO inventory after Fatih, Yavuz has the same technical features as the Fatih drilling vessel and can drill up to 12,200 meters. The third drilling vessel in charge, Kanuni, is also capable of drilling up to 12,200 meters. According to TPAO's report dated May 2022, the Fatih Drilling vessel completed its activities in Karasu-1 and Gökçebey-1 wells and started its new duty in the Türkali-9 well. Kanuni drilling vessel completed its work in Türkali-4 and Türkali-5 wells and moved to the Türkali-3 well. The third drilling ship, Yavuz, continues its activities in the Türkali-2 well.
On 13 June 2022, the "First Black Sea Gas Sea Pipe Lowering and Welding Ceremony” was held at the Filyos Port and Natural Gas Operating Facility. In this way, it can be said that the three-stage plan that was announced earlier has been largely realized. In the first quarter of 2023, it is expected that the gas extracted from the Black Sea will be delivered to homes. In addition, Zonguldak, where Filyos is located, has been turned into a center for Turkish energy with its Black Sea natural gas and coal deposits.
The potential in the Black Sea was already underway before Turkey began serious work. There are also countries such as Romania and Bulgaria that are already actively engaged in natural gas extraction in the region. Romania's continental shelf in the Black Sea has an estimated 200 billion cubic meters reserve. Lukoil in the E X-30 Trident; Black Sea Oil & Gas in the XIII-Pelican and XV Midia West; Petroceltic in the E X-27 Muridava; and Exxon Mobil in the XIX Neptune West continue their operations.
Bulgaria also continues its natural gas exploration efforts especially in the Khan Asparuh region, French Total and Romanian OMV Petrom continue their search. Another energy giant, Shell, continues its activities in the Han Kubrat region. In addition, the Galata-1 and Galata-2 fields, discovered by Texaco in the 90s, are also in an important position in the natural gas exploration adventure of the country. In the 2000s, the Kavarna and Kaliakra fields were also explored. Research and exploration activities in these regions are still ongoing today.
Turkey, Bulgaria, and Romania continue their research and exploration activities in the region. All three have something to learn from each other's work because each region of study has its own characteristics. There is no doubt that a cumulative accumulation of knowledge will be derived from the studies carried out in the Black Sea region. All three countries spend large sums of money and try to attract investors to their countries to eliminate their energy dependence and export. If Turkey reaches its 2023 targets, it is expected to produce 10 million cubic meters of natural gas per day. This will create a potential that can take the country much further than its other counterparts.