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Monday, 24 August 2020

Is Turkey emerging as a regional gas rival to Egypt?

Sultanate of Turkey emerging as a regional gas rival? Turkey’s announcement last Friday of a major gas discovery on the Black Sea prompted analysts to declare that Turkey could potentially be on the verge of transforming from mere consumer and cross-border conduit for gas trade to a sizable regional producer, Bloomberg reports. “Turkey is a premium gas market, which has never been significant on a global scale. The discovery really reinforces the country’s potential role as an energy producer in the region,” Ashley Sherman, an analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said. The discovery is already the largest of its kind in the Black Sea and proved the existence of sizable deposits deep under the seabed, according to Bloomberg. The “Sakarya” field is said to hold 320 bcm in potential reserves. By way of comparison, Egypt’s supergiant Zohr field has around 850 bcm of reserves.

More discoveries to come (we won’t hear the end of it)? The natural gas discovery in the Black Sea is “just the beginning,” an optimistic spokesman for President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan said on Friday. Ankara’s state-oil arm TPAO will continue offshore exploration near the field where officials see “much greater potential” for hydrocarbons, the spokesperson said on Saturday.

The discovery is the latest in a series of moves by Turkey to stake a position as a regional energy player, following repeated contentious energy exploration excursions into Cyriot territorial waters in the eastern Mediterranean. The latest was Oruc Reis, an exploration vessel Ankara deployed near Cyprus earlier this month. The vessel will push on with seismic scans in the area until Thursday, Turkey said yesterday, according to Reuters. Turkish provocation has continued to draw the ire of Egypt, Cyprus, Greece, France, and the UAE — who inked a joint statement condemning Ankara’s repeated attempts to drill for natural gas in Cyprus' disputed maritime zone.

This would add impetus to Egypt and Greece to strengthen their hand by ratifying the maritime boundaries accord this week. Greece’s parliament is planning on ratifying an accord signed with Egypt earlier this month defining maritime border zones in the East Mediterranean Sea this Wednesday, 26 August. The move to formally determine maritime zones is a step towards both countries maximizing their utilization of the resources available in the region, and marks a step towards more natural gas exploration and extraction for Egypt.

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