Turkey’s Gas Supply Security: What Happens Next after the Russian Jet Crisis?

Nurşin ATEŞOĞLU GÜNEY
09 February 2016
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From 1999, Turkey and the Russian Federation managed to build up very close relations. The motivation for this cooperative mood stemmed from mutually beneficial relations in the trade and energy sectors. The foundation of this relationship was predicated on creating a mutual interdependence between the two capitals. Therefore, since the 24th of November, the two sides have managed to continue their trade and energy relations without any disruption despite having their divergent views on certain foreign policy issues. Until very recently this situation stood firm even in the heat of the tensest moments of the Syrian civil war though. However, a wedge between Russia and Turkey has come to the fore and things began to radically change insofar as Turkey’s shooting down of a Russian warplane was preceded by Russia’s incursions into Turkish airspace. Despite Turkey’s immediate efforts to minimize the crisis, Moscow has changed the tone of its communications with Ankara and has simultaneously commenced the imposition of sanctions on Turkey. As a result, ordinary people as well as energy experts have started to question the fate of Russian gas deliveries/imports from Moscow to Turkey via the two pipeline routes. This worry is magnified by the question of whether Turkey can replace the Russian gas imports through new alternatives. Following the crisis energy experts have tried to answer this question, and identify if Ankara needs to replace Russian gas imports straight off the bat in order to fulfil its current and future gas demands. As a result, the focus of this analysis will be on the question of whether Turkey is in need of alternatives to Russian gas imports and what the short and long term remedies are available for Ankara in this regard.

 

Currently, Turkey imports 75 percent of its energy from abroad and 55 percent (nearly 30 billion cubic meters (bcm)) of its natural gas consumption and 16 percent of its oil comes from the Russian Federation. Ankara also currently sources 35 percent of its coal deliveries from Moscow. It is fortunate that in today’s global energy environment it is easier for Turkey to find alternative sources to replace Moscow as a supplier of coal and oil imports. But this situation is more challenging in the natural gas sector.  It is quite obvious that the recent jet crisis has brought the existing bilateral energy trade volumes between Ankara and Moscow once again to the spotlight. The first statement in respect to this came from the Russian Deputy Minister Anatoly Yanovsky. It is fortunate that Mr Yanovsky in his statement announced that Moscow is not planning to impose any natural gas cut off on Turkey  this winter. Although it would be natural for an ordinary person to worry about the security of gas supplies from Russia following the jet crisis, Yanovsky’s statement has come as no surprise to either the energy experts or the bureaucrats. There are several reasons as to why these experts are not surprised and have concluded that Russia will not cut off the gas supplies to Turkey. The first reason is associated with the duration of the contracts that were signed between the two capitals. Currently, Turkey is getting its gas supplies from Russia via two pipeline lines, the West Line and Blue Stream. In accordance with the existing contracts, the West line is to remain operational till the end of 2021, whereas the Blue Stream will operate until 2025. The two capitals have mutual legal obligations, which ensure that they meet their contractual responsibilities. As a result, Gazprom, being the Russian gas exporter, is therefore expected to abide by the conditions in the contract and refrain from any gas cuts to Turkey in order to maintain its credibility. As is the case in Turkey, if Ankara should want to diversify its Russian gas imports and use another supplier, it will be necessary to wait till the end of the existing contracts. Secondly, Russia is in strained economic circumstances. The economy is being negatively affected by Western sanctions as well as by the low price of oil and the reduced value of the Rouble. Under these circumstances, the Russian economy is in dire need of cash and therefore nobody is expecting Moscow to breach its existing gas contract liabilities.

 

 

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