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Turkey announces big boost in Black Sea gas reserves

Upward projection could help Ankara realise its goal of becoming an energy hub for the region
Scarabeo 9
Scarabeo 9, a 115-metre-long, 78-metre-high Frigstad D90-type semi-submersible drilling rig, passes close to the July 15th Martyrs Bridge (Bosphorus Bridge) on the Bosphorus Strait en route to the Black Sea in Istanbul on August 29, 2019 (AFP)

Turkey has upped the estimate of its natural gas reserves in the Black Sea by nearly a third, putting its total deposits at 710 billion cubic metres (bcm) in a boost to its aims of increasing its energy independence.

Speaking after a cabinet meeting, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey had revised upwards the estimated volume of gas contained in its Sakarya field from the previous 540 bcm.

"With our new discovery at Caycuma-1, our gas reserve in the Black Sea has risen by 170 billion cubic metres to 710 billion cubic metres," he said.

An additional 58 bcm were discovered in another Black Sea field, the Turkish leader added.

"This new discovery will open the door for new ones. We'll start drilling new wells as soon as possible," Erdogan told a press conference.

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Turkey's Sakarya field was already thought to contain the largest gas reserves ever recorded in the Black Sea. The upward projection will boost Turkey's aim of becoming a natural gas hub. 

Turkey expects to begin piping gas from the Sakarya field starting in the first quarter of 2023. Before the new discovery, officials predicted the Black Sea deposits would be able to meet about one third of Turkey’s massive domestic demand once peak production is reached.

At the moment, Turkey has little of its own oil and gas and is highly dependent on imports from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran. It also imports LNG from Qatar, the United States, Nigeria and Algeria.

Unlike in the Eastern Mediterranean, another energy-rich region where Ankara is locked in a series of maritime disputes with Cyprus and Greece, Turkey has already demarcated its maritime zone with its Black Sea neighbours, a crucial step in the road to extracting and monetising energy resources. 

Turkey believes it is well placed to benefit from the war in Ukraine rewiring the global energy trade.

In December, Erdogan said Turkey may build a new pipeline to transport gas from Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan to Europe, noting that existing pipelines crossing through Turkey into the Balkans had already reached their limits.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has also suggested Turkey could become a "gas hub". Currently, there are two TurkStream pipelines linking Russian gas to Turkey, mainly serving its domestic market.

Turkish officials have outlined plans for the country to become a hub where Russian gas is blended with multiple other sources from Azerbaijan, Iran, and Iraq - including its own Black Sea reserves - and resold to Europe.

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