The start of new drilling operations in the Eastern Mediterranean, the completion of the TurkStream pipeline project, the finalization of the laying of the foundation for the first reactor of the Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant, the European leg of the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) and the record high electricity generation from renewable and local resources marked the top news stories in Turkey's energy sector in 2019.
Turkey's exploration and drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean have expanded to a great extent in 2019. The country sent a second vessel, Yavuz, to the East Mediterranean Sea on June 20 to begin hydrocarbon exploration off the coast of Cyprus.
During the year, ongoing efforts to find common ground in sharing the East Mediterranean reserves between all concerned actors, namely Turkey, the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC), and the Greek Cypriot Administration failed.
On July 13, the TRNC President Mustafa Akinci via the United Nations extended the hand of cooperation to explore hydrocarbon resources as equal partners and share the income equally with the Greek Cypriot administration leader Nicos Anastasiades. Three days later, however, the Greek Cypriot party leaders rejected this proposal.
In response, the Turkish Foreign Ministry clarified its stance in a statement saying "it is a vain expectation for those who think that Turkey will bow to threats and back down on its rights in the Eastern Mediterranean.”
On July 16, the country's Energy and Natural Resources Minister Fatih Donmez revealed Turkey's plans to send a fourth ship, the Oruc Reis seismic vessel, to the Eastern Mediterranean region to continue exploration and drilling. Along with the Fatih and Yavuz drilling vessels, the Barbaros Hayreddin Pasa seismic vessel also conducts exploration activities on behalf of the country.
On Aug. 7, the sixth generation ultra-deepwater drillship Yavuz started its first operation at the Karpaz-1 well located in the Bay of Gazimagusa, also known as Famagusta, in the TRNC.
On Oct. 5, the Yavuz drilling vessel had reached its second location, Guzelyurt-1, to continue oil and gas exploration activities and to start drilling operations at the well on Oct. 27.
On Nov. 11, the European Council adopted a framework for restrictive measures in response to Turkey's drilling activities in the Eastern Mediterranean, calling them “unauthorized.” The Council said, "the framework will make it possible to sanction individuals or entities responsible for or involved in unauthorized drilling activities of hydrocarbons in the Eastern Mediterranean."
On Nov. 22, Donmez announced that Turkey had started conducting its third drilling in the Eastern Mediterranean with the country’s first drilling vessel, Fatih. Having started its activities in the region on Nov. 30 last year, the ship conducted two drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean and started a third on the Magusa-1 well off the Cypriot coast.
-Maritime boundary pact with Libya
On Nov. 27, Ankara and the Tripoli-based Libyan government reached two separate memorandums of understanding (MoUs), one on military cooperation and another on the countries’ maritime boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean. The maritime boundaries pact came into effect on Dec. 8 and four days later Turkey applied to the UN to register it.
The signing of the MoU was followed by new plans for hydrocarbon exploration activities in the region. On Dec. 4, Donmez announced that Turkey plans new oil and gas exploration and production studies in its maritime jurisdiction area in line with the pact between Turkey and Libya's UN-recognized Government of National Accord (GNA).
"As with other areas, the companies that we will grant licenses to will start oil and gas exploration and production studies in maritime jurisdictions within the scope of this agreement," Donmez said.
Turkey's Annual Presidential Program for 2020 announced on Nov. 4 also included Turkey's plans to conduct five offshore drillings in the Eastern Mediterranean next year.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also declared in a televised interview on Dec. 15 that Turkey might work in the region with oil and gas companies that are "strong in the international community."
On Dec. 17, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (KAN) announced that Israeli officials are open to talks with Ankara on its proposal to build a gas pipeline from Israel via Turkey to Europe.
- TANAP Europe leg inaugurated
This year also saw the realization of the biggest energy projects in the region, one of which was the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP). On Nov. 30, the Turkish and Azeri presidents inaugurated the project's European link.
The ceremony was held in the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne, near the border with Greece. During the ceremony, Erdogan described the project, dubbed as the Silk Road of energy, as "a symbol of deep-rooted friendship between Turkey and Azerbaijan."
The $7 billion TANAP project was officially launched in June 2018. It stretches from the Turkish-Georgian border to the Turkish-Greek border to deliver 6 billion cubic meters of Azeri gas to Turkey and 10 billion to Europe per year. The pipeline passes through 20 provinces and 67 districts of Turkey.
-TurkStream's offshore lines fully completed
Another project that made substantial progress in 2019 was the TurkStream Natural Gas Pipeline Project, which is due to deliver natural gas from Russia to Turkey and Europe.
The project consists of two lines, each with a length of 930 kilometers and a total capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters. Gas flow from the first section is designated for supplies to Turkey's domestic customers and the second is expected to run further to Europe through Bulgaria, Serbia and Hungary.
On Feb. 4, Bulgaria's natural gas transmission and storage system operator, Bulgartransgaz, announced that Bulgaria completed a third market test to expand the country's gas transit network from Turkey to Serbia for the TurkStream pipeline.
On April 17, Serbia also started construction of its section of the TurkStream pipeline and on May 21, took delivery of the pipes that will be laid for this section of the pipeline.
On Aug. 6, the TurkStream project company revealed that the TurkStream project's gas receiving terminal in Kiyikoy, Turkey's main onshore section, was 95% completed.
On Oct. 8, the Minister of Energy and Mining of Republika Srpska Petar Djokic announced that a connecting branch of the TurkStream natural gas pipeline would start next year to extend from Belgrade to Srpska, one of the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Russia's Gazprom reported on Nov. 20 that both sections of the dual TurkStream pipeline had been filled with gas. The energy giant also confirmed the construction of the Russkaya Compressor Station, which will provide the necessary pressure for the gas to traverse through the Black Sea, was finished. The completion of the station is considered a milestone and a key structure in Gazprom's giant gas pipeline and infrastructure network.
On Dec. 10, TurkStream spokeswoman Asli Esen confirmed that the landfall facilities in Russia and the offshore lines were fully completed. She declared that the opening ceremony which is set to bring together the Turkish and Russian presidents for the launch of the TurkStream Pipeline would be held on Jan. 8, 2020.
-Akkuyu Nuclear Power Plant
Turkey has taken vital steps in 2019 to realize the country's first nuclear power plant (NPP) project, Akkuyu, which has an operational date for the first reactor set for 2023.
The project company of Akkuyu Nuclear and French engineering group Assystem signed a cooperation agreement on Jan. 30 to ensure competent safety standards are implemented during the plant’s development.
Over 50 new Turkish specialists, who received diplomas from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute (MEPhI) of Russia's National Research Nuclear University (NRNU), commenced work at Akkuyu Nuclear Joint Stock Company on Feb. 23.
The laying of the foundation for the first reactor of the nuclear power plant was completed on March 8 and works are reported to be in progress for the second unit. On July 30, a “core catcher”, the crucial safety component of the Akkuyu plant, was delivered to the construction site.
On Aug. 21, Russia's state-owned banking and financial services company Sberbank said it would provide a $400 million loan for the construction of Akkuyu nuclear power station.
More recently on Oct. 30, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Grushko confirmed that the construction of the plant is fully on schedule.
The project, for which the intergovernmental agreement was signed in May 2010, is expected to be up and running at full capacity by 2025. It will consist of four VVER-1200 power units with a total installed capacity of 4,800 megawatts.
-2019: a record year for renewable generation
This year also saw a record high electricity generation from renewables. According to data from Turkey's Electricity Transmission Corporation (TEIAS), Turkey's wind electricity generation hit a daily record on Sept. 15 with the generation of 19% of total power from wind.
On Nov. 5, Donmez announced that Turkey produced 46% of its electricity from renewable resources during the first 10 months of 2019, which he said represented a steady monthly increase.
Local and renewable energy resources combined saw a total share of 64% in electricity production in the January-October period of this year, marking a record high level, the energy minister said.
These figures ensured that Turkey reached its objective of producing two-thirds of its electricity in the short-term from local and renewable resources, he affirmed.
The country made greater efforts to add more renewable energy power generation in its energy mix in 2019. With such an aim, the country finalized its second renewable energy resources zone (YEKA) wind tenders on May 30. Turkey's Enerjisa and Germany's Enercon won the tenders for a total capacity of 1,000 megawatts (MW).
The YEKA tenders form part of Turkey's aim to supply 65% of its energy needs from domestic and renewable sources by 2023. In the first 1,000 MW wind tender that Turkey's Renewable Energy Resources Zone Project offered, a Siemens Gamesa - Turkerler - Kalyon consortium won the tender by submitting the best price of $3.48 per kilowatt-hour.
During the fourth quarter of the year, the country announced plans to hold YEKA tenders for solar energy in a new form, known as "mini YEKA." The tender announcement came from Donmez on Oct. 7, when he said he expects the holding of these tenders in the first quarter of 2020.
Along with renewables, the country's efforts to make better use of local resources expanded to oil production. On Oct. 5, the country started crude oil production using hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. This is the country's first time to apply fracking methods for crude production, which took place in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir.
-Natural gas sector developments
On Jan. 10, Donmez announced that Turkey's daily natural gas consumption reached a historic record high at 245 million cubic meters on Jan. 8, beating its previous record made on Feb. 14, 2017, when consumption totaled 243 million cubic meters.
According to TEIAS official figures, the share of natural gas in Turkey's electricity production declined to its lowest level of the last 20 years to 30.66% in 2018.
However, Turkey's liquefied natural gas (LNG) imports reached a historic high of 7.14 billion cubic meters (bcm) in the first half of 2019, according to Turkey's Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA).
This sector has also seen sizable agreements, investments and purchases in 2019. On March 13, Turkish Petroleum Pipeline Corporation (BOTAS) awarded the design, supply and installation of the second phase of the Tuz Golu (Salt Lake) Underground Natural Gas Storage Expansion Facility to a joint venture between China's Camc Engineering and Turkey's IC Ictas.
On June 18, SOCAR Turkey completed the takeover of EWE Turkey Holding's subsidiaries Bursagaz, Kayserigaz, Enervis, EWE Enerji and Millenicom.
On July 24, EMRA granted separate licenses to Shell and Turkish private gas company Aygaz for the export of natural gas from Turkey to Europe on July 24.
Azerbaijani integrated drilling and well services management company SOCAR AQS opened a representative office in the Turkish capital Ankara on Oct. 18. Four days later, the company’s director-general Ramin Isayev said that SOCAR AQS would dig 40 wells to expand the storage capacity at the Salt Lake facility in central Anatolia.
By Ebru Sengul