The first 930-kilometer-long pipeline of the TurkStream natural gas dual pipeline project to carry Russian gas to Turkey is set to become operational by the end of the year in line with Turkey's 11th development plan, covering the period 2019-2023.
The project, which will eventually carry gas to Europe, is a record-setter. It is the biggest-diameter offshore gas pipeline in the world laid at extreme depths of 2,200 meters and its deep-sea pipelaying was carried out by the world's biggest construction vessel, aptly called the Pioneering Spirit.
The project was spearheaded by Russia in December 2014 when Russian President Vladimir Putin announced the project launch. It is expected to be operational for at least the next 50 years.
The energy ministers of Russia and Turkey signed the intergovernmental agreement for the pipeline project on Oct. 10, 2016.
The giant gas project has a capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters (bcm) in total and will send 15.75 bcm of natural gas to Turkey and 15.75 bcm of gas to Europe, potentially through Bulgaria, the current most preferred route for the second line.
- Timeline of TurkStream project
Putin first introduced the concept of the project on May 25. Initially, it was named 'Turkish Stream' by Turkey’s former Energy and Natural Resources Minister who noted that the project would not only become a transit project for Russian gas to Turkey but would allow Turkey to become a distributor to Europe. Putin officially announced the project in December.
Technical studies for the project started in February and on June 22, Russia's Gazprom, the main project partner, reported that engineering research to prepare the sub-sea structure would proceed and this concluded on June 26.
However, Turkey and Russia's bilateral relations took a hit after a Russian airplane, which violated Turkish airspace, was shot down on Nov. 24 resulting in the shelving of the TurkStream project via statements made by Ankara and Moscow.
On June 8, Putin's statement regarding the TurkStream strengthened the possibility of the project's revival.
Putin said that "Russia had not given up on the project," although he acknowledged some political problems with Turkey.
On June 14, following Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's letter to Putin to celebrate Russia's national holiday, Russia Day, relations began to thaw and moderate diplomatic relations ensued.
On June 28, Gazprom spokesman Sergey Kupriyanov announced that Russia was prepared to resume talks on the TurkStream pipeline and the following day, Russian Energy Minister Novak stated that Turkey and Russia restarted negotiations.
On May 7, the Pioneering Spirit, the world's largest construction ship belonging to Allseas, sailed to the Black Sea in preparation for its work which was then officially launched by Putin on June 23.
In September, Petrofac was awarded the construction of a gas receiving terminal in Kiyikoy, the main onshore site for the Turkish section in the country's northwest.
The Pioneering Spirit vessel, with a crew of 562 from 40 different nations on board, completed its 10-month duty in the Black Sea on April 30 to lay pipes for the first leg of the project. On June 20, the vessel returned to the Black Sea and began construction of the second leg.
Erdogan hosted his Russian counterpart Putin in Istanbul on Nov. 19 for a ceremony marking the completion of the project's sub-sea section.
The gas-receiving terminal in Kiyikoy is 95% complete as of Aug. 14.
The project's first line completion is anticipated by the end of the year.
By Murat Temizer