Turkey Finds Energy in Black Sea as Erdogan Vows a New Era

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses lawmakers of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara, Turkey, on June 25, 2019. (File Picture)

Turkey has discovered energy in the Black Sea, most likely natural gas, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said Wednesday, but gave no indication of the size and depth of the find, nor how difficult it will be to extract.

The Fatih drilling ship located the deposit in the so-called Tuna-1 field, Erdogan said Friday in a much-trailed press conference in his Istanbul palace. Exploration is continuing in other fields, he said.

The lira reversed earlier gains against the dollar after the announcement. It was down 0.3 per cent as of 3:42 p.m. in Istanbul. The Borsa Istanbul 100 index also gave up gains and fell as much as 1.8 per cent, possibly reflecting disappointment over the size of the find.

Turkey Finds Energy in Black Sea as Erdogan Vows a New EraTurkey bought three drilling ships in recent years as it dramatically expanded energy exploration in the Black Sea and contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean. It’s keen to find sizable energy reserves to ease its heavy reliance on imports from Iran, Iraq and Russia, and support one of the biggest economies in the Middle East.

The Fatih has been drilling to a depth of 3,500 to 4,000 meters (11,500 to 13,000 feet), Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said last month. TPAO, however, has no experience in deep-sea gas production and would likely need to enlist a major oil company to exploit a field. With oil and gas prices having slumped, the economics of developing such a find may be less attractive than in the past.Tuna-1, some 150 kilometers from Turkey’s coast, is close to an area where maritime borders of Bulgaria and Romania converge and not far from Romania’s Neptun block, the largest gas find in the Black Sea in decades discovered eight years ago by Petrom and Exxon.

Romania has shallow-water gas projects, but a major deep-water find by eight years ago has still to be exploited. A company backed by the Carlyle Group is also exploring off Romania, aiming to get gas in 2021. Rosneft has explored in the Russian part of the Black Sea but without concrete results.Turkey is mired in territorial disputes with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean as it searches for oil and gas in contested waters. France has temporarily increased its military presence to ward off Turkish steps, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said the EU was concerned over the increased tensions.

Erdogan said he also expects “good news” from exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

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