New gas corridors and Turkey’s role

The war, which began with the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, placed a huge burden on the global economy, which was faced with an energy supply shock and very high energy prices.

It is clear that Europe needs as many alternative sources as possible against Russian gas in the short and long term. While there are some alternatives to be found in the North Sea, Norway, North Africa, the Middle East, the Caucasus and the USA, there are technical, infrastructure and timing barriers that complicate procurement.

Assoc. Dr. İsmail Sarı wrote an analysis on Turkey's role in the new gas corridors that came to the fore in the Middle East due to the energy crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine War. According to Sarı, from a European perspective, attention is focused on re-diversification resources, particularly gas resources in the Middle East and the eastern Mediterranean.

What makes Turkey a valuable and important country due to its geographical location is the assurance of new supply sources in this context. In the past, there have been serious plans to bring gas to Europe via Turkey, but very few of them have been realized.

TURKEY’S ROLE

In March 2022, Israel started gas exports to Egypt with a new route via Jordan. Israeli company Ratio Energy reported that the route through Jordan helped sell an additional 1.8 billion cubic meters of gas from the Leviathan field. In the first three months of the year, record natural gas sales increased to 2.7 billion cubic meters. Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Egypt continues its plans to become a regional gas hub with two LNG plants.

Besides Israel's interest, Italian Eni-SpA wants to intensify its presence in Egypt to increase gas exports to Europe. Greece, on the other hand, started the floating LNG storage and gasification unit (FSRU) project in Alexandroupoli in May 2022, which will be completed in 20 months. This project is scheduled to enter service in late 2022 or early 2023 with supplies from US and Qatari companies. The International Energy Agency (IEA) announced that US LNG exports to Europe increased in the first four months of 2022. IEA data shows how dramatic the change in LNG flows has been this year. The IEA states that in the first four months of this year, the US sent 74 percent of its LNG to Europe.

The EU is heavily dependent on Russian gas. It imports around 155 billion cubic meters per year, which accounts for 45 percent of its gas purchases and 40 percent of its consumption. The EU makes 80 percent of its imports through the natural gas pipeline, and there is largely no connection between these pipelines.

The main capacities of the gas pipeline are located in Algeria, Norway and Azerbaijan. It is planned to increase the flow from Algeria to 32 billion cubic meters per year in Transmed (via Italy) and to 10 billion cubic meters in Medgaz (via Spain). Italy and Spain intensify 65 percent of Algerian gas purchases. Therefore, LNG will be an alternative to the natural gas pipeline.

Turkey connects Europe to gas-rich countries like Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Iraq. According to Sarı, Turkey is at the heart of the Southern Gas Corridor (SGC) pipeline system, which aims to increase and diversify Europe's energy supply by bringing gas resources from the Caspian Sea to markets in Europe without involving Russia. In this sense, the construction of the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is very important for Turkey. However, this cooperation is not yet fully developed at the desired level.

Since the discovery of important gas deposits in the Eastern Mediterranean, the region has also been cited as an alternative to Russian gas for Europe's energy security. Here, too, Turkey, with its geographical location, can play a role in transporting this gas to European markets. Of course, there are some important political, financial and infrastructural challenges to overcome. However, Turkey is highly likely to be a key transit country in Europe's efforts to find an alternative to Russian gas.