The expiry of long-term, oil-indexed natural gas contracts at the end of 2021 offers Turkey an opportunity to negotiate more competitive gas prices based on more flexible terms, particularly with Russia.
Next year will be a critical one for the gas sector, with the expiry of natural gas contracts amounting to 15.9 billion cubic meters (bcm) out of a total of 58 bcm. Of these expiring contracts, 6.6 bcm is from Azerbaijan, 8 bcm from Russia and 1.3 bcm from Nigeria.
This is in conjunction with the expired gas contract of 2.1 bcm this September with Qatar, which is up for renewal in 2021.
However, experts think that the gas contract renewal of 6.6 bcm with Azerbaijan is unlikely, as Turkey is already importing 6 bcm of natural gas via the Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP).
Therefore, excluding imports from Azerbaijan; 11.4 bcm from Russia, Nigeria and Qatar, accounting for 20% of Turkey's total gas contract capacity, are up for negotiation.
The ending of these contracts is considered a determinant of Turkey’s gas import costs and for the gas sector overall.
Turkey is seeking to have a more flexible gas contract structure with Russia’s Gazprom following the expiry of the oil-indexed contracts, which were based on a take or pay obligation and did not allow for the re-export of imported gas.
As Turkey no longer wants to carry the burden of restrictive contracts, it has, over the last few years, developed LNG and Floating Storage Regasification Unit (FSRU) storage facilities to allow for more flexible gas trade.
"Thanks to this flexibility, Turkey benefited from LNG prices that hit the lowest levels in the second quarter of this year to supply a significant part of its gas needs via LNG," Volkan Yigit, a partner at consultancy firm APLUS told Anadolu Agency.
Turkey imported a record high level of around 12 bcm of LNG this year, considering Turkey's annual gas imports of around 45 bcm.
These developments, he said, have strengthened Turkey's hand ahead of the critical year, 2021.
- Lowest gas import cost in Q1 of 2021
Yigit reiterated that Turkey wants to purchase gas at discounted rates, particularly from Russia.
"The country expects this because Russia already made a 40% discount to Bulgaria at the beginning of this year. Russia made other price cuts during its negotiations with other European countries," he said. "We cannot limit Turkey's relationship with Russia in only natural gas trade as there are many other common issues, but I expect more advantageous contract conditions for Turkey after the negotiations."
He stressed the importance of obtaining acceptable gas prices, as these will set a precedent in 2025 when the contract for 16 bcm of gas via the Blue Stream expires.
Oil prices impact oil-indexed gas prices with a lag of six to nine months.
Gas import costs were $285 per bcm in 2019 and dropped to around $210 this year, but Yigit said that "Turkey will pay around $170 per bcm in the first quarter of 2021, which will be the lowest cost for gas imports for a long time due to falling oil prices this year.”
However, he said that prices afterward would be higher in line with oil product pricing.
Partner and Manager at ADG Natural Gas Consultancy, Gokhan Yardim, highlighted the fact that Turkey is secure in its energy supplies, thanks to the country’s LNG infrastructure, storage facilities and the natural gas discovery in the Black Sea, even if all the capacity of the expiring contracts are not renewed.
Turkey discovered the biggest offshore gas discovery in the world in 2020 with 405 bcm of natural gas in the Black Sea this year.
Yardim concluded that Turkey's demand for flexibility and discounted prices run in parallel with global developments in natural gas markets.
By Nuran Erkul Kaya