TURKEY'S ROLE AS AN ENERGY HUB

Daily Sabah
May 1, 2015 

Turkey's booming energy sector, located at the crossroads of East and West, is critical to ensuring the world's energy needs are met for years to come. Amid regional turmoil, including the conflict in neighboring Syria and escalating chaos in Yemen that has forced the closing of its prominent liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminal, Turkey's stability brings a solution to growing energy concerns.

Turkey's location has always led it to hold an important role in diplomatic and energy relationships between Europe, the Middle East and Asia. However, two new projects demonstrate Turkey's open market and promise to further increase the scope of its importance in the global energy supply chain. The Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), on which Turkey is cooperating with Azerbaijan and Georgia among other countries, will be a key link in the Southern Gas Corridor between Azerbaijan and the EU. As Europe's energy demands continue to grow, this 1,850-kilometer pipeline will be critical to addressing this growing need. Construction of the TANAP began in March, and once completed in 2019, it is expected to be capable of transporting 16 billion cubic meters of gas per year.

In a separate endeavor, Russia approached Turkey about investing in a "Turkish Stream" project that would bring 15.75 billion cubic meters of Russian gas per year to Turkey, enough to supply roughly a third of Europe's needs, entering from the Turkey-Greece border. In 2014, Russia contributed approximately 147 billion cubic meters to meeting the EU's gas needs, over 40 percent of which was imported through Ukraine. While there are still challenges to overcome before this pipeline can be fully realized, if the Turkish Stream project does takes off, Turkey could become one of the primary suppliers of gas to Europe, which is the world's second-largest natural gas market, and strengthen its status as a reliable and significant energy partner linking West and East.

These infrastructure projects will take time to fully implement, but they are helping Turkey rapidly transform from an energy corridor to a vibrant energy hub, linking suppliers in the Middle East and Central Asia to markets in Europe and beyond. These energy links are also having positive effects on Turkey's economy, promising to effectively double the volume of the already significant oil and natural gas flows that are transported through the country each year through existing infrastructure connecting the country to northern Iraq, Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan.

Turkey is not the only country altering the structure of the world's energy supply chains. The U.S. is also taking advantage of enormous natural gas resources to construct five LNG export facilities expected to begin transporting fuel abroad between 2015 and 2018. These new projects, once fully operational, will have a combined capacity of at least 92 billion cubic meters per year. Together with Turkey, this increased LNG capacity will have far-reaching consequences for European markets, ensuring their access to a diverse and dependable energy supply for years to come.

These pipelines and projects will come online at just the right moment in Turkey's economic development, as they become increasingly important to supplying Turkey's own energy needs. Like the EU, Turkey's energy consumption has been rising dramatically, partly as a result of its expanding economy. The International Energy Agency predicts that the country's energy demand will increase at an annual rate of 4.5 percent between 2015 and 2030, effectively doubling over the course of a decade. This holds particularly true for its natural gas consumption, which has been rising year over year and has recently overtaken oil as Turkey's most consumed energy by volume. As domestic demand increases, the impact that the increased capacity afforded by each pipeline will have on Turkey's economic potential cannot be understated.

Turkey and Europe are not the only ones that stand to win from expanding pipeline infrastructure. The Financial Times has called both pipelines equally "vital for regional energy security," as players as diverse as the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq, Turkmenistan, Iran and other suppliers in Central Asia and the Mediterranean have expressed interest in linking their energy futures to Turkey. As a beacon of dependability in a sometimes volatile region, Turkey is a prime example that stability begets economic investment and growth. By leading the expansion of the continent's energy infrastructure from Azerbaijan to Italy and beyond, Turkey is contributing to the spread of economic opportunity and the means for fostering peace and growth throughout the region.

Halil Danismaz, President, Turkish Heritage Organization