Turkey as a Regional Energy Hub

By Roberts, John | Insight Turkey, Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Turkey as a Regional Energy Hub


Roberts, John, Insight Turkey


Turkey seems confused as to just what it means to be a hub--let alone the challenges it faces in becoming one. Quite clearly, Turkey already is a major physical hub, in the sense that a host of major oil and gas pipelines already transit the country, with gas supplies further augmented by liquefied natural gas (LNG) regasifaction facilities. But other countries also share this characteristic, so does that make them transit hubtral europes?

For example, the president of Bulgaria, interviewed in connection with the recent Oil and Gas Conference in Baku, declared that Bulgaria sees itself as "the gas hub of Eastern and Central Europe." (1) He has some justification in saying this. Bulgaria receives gas from Russia and transits it to Turkey. In addition, within the next two years or so it is also expected to have interconnectors with both Greece and Romania. Indeed, there is even a Turkish company that has discussed with the Bulgarian authorities the concept of constructing a short interconnector between storage facilities in Turkish Thrace and southern Bulgaria.

Moreover, there is also the prospect of Nabucco to consider. For while Nabucco is commonly viewed as a vehicle for transporting gas from Azerbaijan, northern Iraq and, potentially, other sources in the Middle East to destinations in and beyond Central and Eastern Europe, it, too, is also intended to function as an interconnector.

Greece, too, envisages itself to be a potential gas hub. And it has its own reasons. There is the Interconnector between Turkey, Greece and Italy (ITGI) which not only would carry Azerbaijani gas to Southern European markets but which, in extremis, could carry North African gas to Balkans if, for whatever reason, there were ever to be a repetition of the crises of January 2006 and January 2009. It should be noted that the developers of the Poseidon project--the link in the interconnector system between Greece and Italy--are also involved in developing the 170-km Interconnector Greece-Bulgaria (IGB).

Moreover, Greece can add to this its role in other transit routes, notably the Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) and the West Balkans Pipeline, the latter being particularly favored by the World Bank. In addition, as noted by Harry Sachinis, the chairman of the Greek regulatory authority, DEPA, in Baku on June 3, 2010, it can also use its regasification terminals to bring liquefied gas into the equation. The flexibility to be gained through the use of regional interconnectors is the reason why Greece, as well as Bulgaria, considers it can serve as a transit route to carry Azerbaijani gas all the way to the existing European gas hub at Baumgarten.

Beyond Bulgaria and Greece, other countries may well consider that they, too, have prospects of becoming transportation hubs. Italy, for example, already receives gas from Algeria and Libya and transits some of this northward to Switzerland and Austria. The developers of both the ITGI and TAP projects say that their pipelines are not simply intended for single customers but can supply a variety of customers, including some in Switzerland, and thus contribute to a further opening up of the Italian market, not least by raising the prospect of onward deliveries to France.

So where does this leave Turkey? Turkey is blessed with the supreme geographical position. In oil, it lies astride the both the giant Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline and the major tanker route through the Bosphorus and is pushing to develop its own Bosphorus bypass, the Samsun-Ceyhan (in reality Unye-Ceyhan) pipeline. In gas, Turkey has the current or prospective ability to import gas from all directions: from the east, Iran; from the northeast, Azerbaijan; from the north, Russia; from the west, LNG from Algeria (and elsewhere). And, once the final leg gets built in 2011 or 2012, from the south via the Arab Gas Pipeline coming up from Syria to southern Turkey, which serves current Egyptian exports and is envisaged as an export system for future exports from the giant Akkas gas field in eastern Iraq. …

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