Turkey advances gas drilling in east Mediterranean to get upper hand in gas rivalry
Turkey has been advancing its presence in the eastern Mediterranean for drilling activities of oil and natural gas as Egypt, Greece, Greek Cyprus, and Israel make efforts to create a regional energy structure that will exclude Turkey from the Mediterranean hydrocarbon market.
Having no hydrocarbon discoveries in the eastern Mediterranean yet, Turkey has sent three ships into the coastal waters of Cyprus to drill for gas and a fourth seismic vessel will deport soon despite mounting tensions with the European Union and the United States.
Following “Fatih” drilling vessel dispatched the region for a one-month mission in the eastern Mediterranean, “Yavuz,” the second Turkish vessel has recently reached its location, and a seismic vessel, “Oruc Reis” will set sail to the region soon, Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Thursday.
The seismic vessel Barbaros Hayrettin Pasa has been in exploration in the Mediterranean since April 2017.
Turkey objects the Greek Cypriot’s attempts for Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) agreements and drilling contracts with companies, arguing that the sources of the island belong to both Turkish and Greek residents.
“Greek Cyprus has been acting like they own the island,” Donmez said noting that the most serious solution is Turkish Cypriot’s offer for a joint committee for a fair share of the island’s natural resources. However, the proposal was rejected by Greek Cyprus.
The EU on Monday declared a set of sanctions against Turkey which Ankara branded as “symbolic” and “aiming to satisfy Greek Cypriots.”
Island Cyprus was divided in 1974 after a Turkish intervention triggered by a brief Greek-inspired coup. Several settlement efforts have failed and the discovery of offshore resources has complicated the reunification negotiations.
In recent years, the discovery of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean has led to new alliances and rivalries. The regional countries involved in crucial discoveries of hydrocarbon gas reserves – Egypt, Israel, and Greece – pursue their policies through equations that excludes Turkey since Ankara has strained ties with them over different political reasons.
There are two possible routes for transporting natural gas from the region to the European continent through pipelines, local expert said.
The first of these, transfer of the natural gas first to Turkey, then forwarded to the European continent; the second is the transfer of the East-Med Natural Gas Pipeline Project to global markets via Israel, Greek Cyprus, Greece and Italy, according to Ismail Kavaz, energy expert from Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA).
Agreements between Egypt and Greek Cyprus to build a pipeline would lead to the sale of gas from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, bypassing Turkey.
If Turkey finds natural gas resources over its drilling efforts, that will put the country among the reserve countries in the region in addition to its current transfer potential and will make it one of the strongest actors of the region, the expert said.
One of the Turkish drilling vessels is exploring the region within Turkey’s continental shelf and another vessel is drilling in the economic zone of the Turkish Cypriot, provided by a license by the north of the island, a Turkish diplomat told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
Turkey will continue drilling activities for gas in these waters until all relevant actors of the region find common ground and agree for the most feasible use of sources in energy markets, said the diplomat.