Geo-Economics of European Gas Security: Trade, Geography and International Politics

By Bilgin, Mert | Insight Turkey, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

Geo-Economics of European Gas Security: Trade, Geography and International Politics


Bilgin, Mert, Insight Turkey


The term "European energy security" goes beyond the European Union's (EU) 27 member states and concerns many other countries. It is, therefore, a significant issue which merits extensive studies from a broader regional perspective. Recent analyses on European energy security focus on the risks that might arise from: (1) the Russian state's overwhelming control in the Russian energy sector; (12) the illiberal market conditions and extensive centralization in Russia; (23) the consequences of the asymmetry between the liberal understanding of the energy sector in Europe and the state-centric illiberal environment in Russia; (34) geopolitical concerns stemming from European energy supply security; (4) and (5) Turkey's emerging role in a new energy corridor. (5)

These studies point to supply-side features (reserves, field development potentials and transport options) as significant factors in energy security with regard to their effects on Europe's relations with actual and prospective suppliers. (6) Analyses on energy security necessarily stem from supply-side issues. (7) Additional questions on a myriad of other significant factors arise from this perspective such as, to what extent does Gazprom's difficulty in developing new gas fields in Russia channel its corporate expansion abroad? Is it possible to include additional suppliers from the Caspian, the Middle East and Africa under current conditions? What is the role that Turkey may assume as a transit state for the fourth gas corridor to Europe? What consequences might arise from Gazprom's corporate initiatives in Libya and Algeria?

This article matches a geo-economic perspective with international politics and aims to highlight some answers to these and similar questions by examining gas supplies from Russia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, Libya and Algeria. It puts a particular focus on the relation between selected geo-economic factors (reserves, production, field development, transportation across territories, trade opportunities) and international politics. The second part, following this introduction, is entitled "Natural Gas in the New Energy Order." It points to contextual shifts in global energy security arising from environmental and socio-economic factors, and maps European gas security within this framework. The third part, "Premises of Supplies from Russia," elaborates the supply-side features with a particular focus on developing fields (e.g. Shtokman) and pipelines (e.g. Nord Stream and South Stream). The fourth part makes sense of Caspian resources under the title the "Significance of Caspian Resources via Turkey." It looks into Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. The fifth part, "Middle Eastern Prospective Gas Suppliers to Europe via Turkey," discusses the potential of Iran and Iraq. The sixth part is entitled "North Africa's Potential of Natural Gas and LNG Exports" and looks at Egypt, Algeria, Libya, and a possible extension from Nigeria, with a particular focus on Gazprom's corporate expansion strategy in the region. In conclusion, the paper points to supply-side opportunities which channel new fields of international cooperation based on gas trade and highlights the political restraints which may decelerate the rise of new regional relations.

Natural Gas in the New Energy Order

Energy markets and supply security issues are intertwined factors of the new global geopolitics and call for energy-centered foreign policies. (8) "In the planet's new international energy order, countries can be divided into energy-surplus and energy-deficit nations." (9) Relations between these two groups of countries are likely to determine the characteristics of regional and global affairs. (10) Scarcity of supply and environmental restraints compel actors to move beyond a narrow definition of energy security based on quantity, price, location and time to a broader understanding in which the availability of energy needs to be not only secure and desirable in terms of amount, price, location and time, but also supportive of economic, social and environmental quality. …

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