Turkey has once again carried out a project of historic importance. The first gas flow from Turkstream project, which was inaugurated on January 8, began on January 1. This project is of great importance in many respects and its strategic value goes far beyond just the gas flowing through it.
Turkstream: A Timeline
Plans for a “South Stream” have been in the making ever since Russia began to experience various problems starting 2006 with Ukraine, that would become a transit route for gas trade between Russia and Europe under the Black Sea through Bulgaria all the way to Italy and Austria, via four separate pipes, each with a capacity of 15.75 billion cubic meters (63 billion cubic meters in total). As no progress was achieved on that front, President Vladimir Putin announced upon visiting our country under the framework of the High Level Cooperation Council, as he pointed to the EU and Bulgaria's negative attitude towards the new project that Turkey will replace the planned the “South Stream” through a new planned project “Turkstream.”
It has taken a long time for the necessary step to realize a project of this size and impact on multidimensional energy politics to be taken as it was repeatedly speculated in the energy press that it would be suspended upon the downing of the Russian jet in 2015, or that it would be leveraged by Putin.
The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Project was signed in October 2016 and came into force in February 2017 following the completion of the domestic legal process in both countries and the construction of the project has actually started in May 2017. In November 2018, the construction of the sea section of the pipeline and finally the construction of the land section and reception terminal was completed by the end of 2019. The first gas flow began on January 1, while the official opening was held on January 8 with a ceremony attended by Putin and Erdogan.
TECHNICAL FEATURES OF TURKSTREAM
The project was completed with the joint venture of Gazprom and BOTAŞ at a total cost of 11.4 billion Euros. The pipeline starts from the Russian town of Anapa and enters Turkey from Kiyiköy. The capacity of each line is 15.75 billion cubic meters annually. At a length of 935 kilometers, a section of the pipes is laid under the Black Sea. The depth where the pipeline intermittently passes under the sea exceeds 2 kilometers. The pipeline consists of thousands of pipe sections, each designed to be 81 centimeters in diameter and 12 meters in length. The line was constructed of 39 mm thick pipes designed to increase pressure resistance.
STRATEGIC VALUE OF TURKSTREAM
Turkey will receive the full 15.75 billion cubic meters to be delivered through the first line. With the commissioning of the first line, it was possible to replace the Western Line, which brought Russian gas to Ukraine, Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria that helped grow our country's economic activities and population. In other words, the risks arising from third countries in transit have been eliminated. Receiving 14 billion cubic meters of gas annually through the first line of Turkstream, granted the terms and conditions of the existing contracts remain unchanged, means the minimizing of this risk.
TIME OF ACTION IN NATURAL GAS GAME
Turkey has a strategic location as a crucial marketplace for 75% of the proven hydrocarbon reserves where producing countries come together with consumers. We know this sentence by heart now. If being a transit country in energy made a country an energy hub or placed it in the middle of energy geopolitics, Ukraine, which has a functioning infrastructure that for years transported about three-quarters (over 150 billion cubic meters) of natural gas from the Russian Federation (RF) to the EU, would have become Europe's energy center. However, we know where things currently stand with regards to Ukraine.
Istanbul is the only city in our region that boasts the most advanced natural gas infrastructure and also has an energy exchange where natural gas trade is carried out in the entire region. In natural gas, it is time to put the “bridge, intersection or corridor” discourse to rest. Over time, Turkey will not only be a natural gas transit, but also will play a role in its pricing, will also guide the development of the natural gas market in the region, and as it assumes its place as a key country, Turkey will bring together more buyers and sellers in free market conditions. In this respect, we should start using the right terms for this strategic goal.