Türkiye could step up role to aid EU natural gas bottleneck

Country has much more diversified suppliers and developing infrastructure than some European countries for better flexibility, experts say

Firdevs Yüksel, Sibel Morrow   | 30.06.2022
Türkiye could step up role to aid EU natural gas bottleneck


Türkiye's natural gas investments are not only able to cover domestic energy security but offer a solution to the demands of the European Union (EU) during the natural gas crisis caused by the Russia-Ukraine war, according to energy analysts.

The war in Ukraine, which is reshaping the global geopolitical and energy order, is also emasculating Russia, one of the world’s energy superpowers, while EU countries are scrambling to find alternative natural gas sources in anticipation of a further decline in Russian gas supplies to Europe.

This comes in the face of several EU sanctions on Russian energy exports, as well as self-sanctioning by some companies, or as punishment by Moscow on European countries that have refused to pay for Russian natural gas supplies in rubles.

Gulmira Rzayeva, the founding director of Eurasia Analytics, sees an opportunity for Türkiye to step up its role as an energy hub with its growing importance in LNG to alleviate the crisis in Europe.

“Türkiye's role not only as a transit country but also a country which possesses very scalable infrastructure is growing in the light of this energy crisis in Europe,” Rzayeva said.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Rzayeva, who is also a senior visiting research fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies (OIES), explained that Türkiye’s savior role in the EU’s energy conflict is not only critical because of the crisis itself and the resulting high prices, but also “because of the scarcity of gas on the market at the moment.”

“Azerbaijan is also gaining very strategic importance for Europe in that sense because Azerbaijan can increase its gas exports to Europe. But then here in the background of all these developments, Türkiye is becoming a very important country to help, especially Southeast European countries, to wean itself off Russian gas,” she said.

She stressed the important role that Türkiye can play as an emerging transit country given its very developed infrastructure, as “European companies can use this infrastructure to bring gas from alternative sources to their countries.”

She further explained that this could be realized through both local Turkish and European private companies registering in Türkiye, and offtaking gas imported from Azerbaijan or elsewhere into the country, including LNG, for shipment to Europe.

“Because Türkiye has around 50 billion cubic meters (bcm) of LNG regasification capacity in the country. So, this is around 90% of the Turkish annual gas demand. Bulgarian companies have already booked capacity in LNG terminals, which means that they can buy LNG at the Turkish regasification terminals and ship it to Bulgaria or any other European countries,” she said.

Türkiye’s energy security is outpacing most European countries

Brenda Shaffer, a professor at the US Naval Post-Graduate School surmises that Türkiye has a much more realistic policy about energy security compared to Europe.

This policy encompasses gas, which according to Shaffer, is needed with or without renewables.

She affirmed that hopes of renewable energy sources someday meeting all the necessary energy needs would be “a miracle” because "this current generation of renewables, hydropower, wind and solar cannot deliver the energy intensity that modern economies need."

“They still run on a baseload fuel of gas or other constant fuel. So, you need gas with renewables or without renewables,” she said.

Shaffer asserts that the country is also much more diversified in its gas suppliers with its diversified energy policy that does not just rely on renewables.

“So [Türkiye] has projects from Russia, from Azerbaijan from Iran, huge increases of LNG imports. On the energy security side, Türkiye did much better than most European countries,” she said.

Diversity in its gas supply provides flexibility for Türkiye

John Roberts, an energy security specialist at the Atlantic Council, recalls that the EU plans to reduce its gas consumption as part of its climate change strategy.

The bloc imports on average around 155 bcm of gas annually from Russia.

“It (EU) was trying to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and it had in its mind a proposal to cut demand by 100 bcm not just from Russia, but from all over,” Roberts said.

He added that the Russia-Ukraine war brought these goals forward and forced EU countries to entirely cut dependence on Russia.

He advised that these goals will be reached with about 37-38 bcm of new production from LNG, notably in the US, coming online this year, most of which will go to Europe. Similarly, the same gas quantity is expected from alternative sources of energy, notably renewables, while it is still unclear where the remaining 25-30 bcm of gas will come from.

He warned of the likelihood of some countries having short supplies and of “demand destruction.“

“This is not about people saving gas. This is about people not being able to afford to pay for gas or physically finding they're not receiving gas. This is not simply reducing your own demand by 5 or 10%. It's cutting it out completely whether this is a company, a household, and at whatever level. It's an act of desperation to stop using gas,” Roberts said, calling the situation “the most frightening thing.”

“Because, if you turn off the gas fire or gas cooker in the house, they're so connected to the internal system and you can turn it on again when you want to. But, if you turn off a town or a factory from its gas power, you have to check every single outlet before you turn the gas back on,” he said.

He considers that the concerns of European countries like Hungary and Serbia are legitimate while warning against a catastrophic collapse of gas demand in certain parts of Europe if the process of reduction of gas is not implemented in a phased-out way.

“This is why Turkey is in a good position because it gets gas from multiple sources. It gets gas from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran, and it gets LNG from a wide variety of sources. So, Turkey has a flexible policy, and it's that flexibility that is an insurance policy,” Roberts said.

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