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The Black Sea oil field may make Turkey energy independent

In recent years Turkey has geared up its efforts to diversify its energy sources. The State Planning Agency estimated that there is a need for an $80 billion investment in the next 15 years to meet the country’s energy needs (Dogu Karadeniz Bolgesi Bolgesel Gelisme Plani Nihai Rapor, Cilt II: Ana Plan).

One possible field that the Turkish authorities pay special attention to is the Black Sea drilling site. The president of the state-owned Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) said that “between 2007 and 2012, $87 billion is planned to be invested in the petroleum industry” (Hurriyet, August 17, 2006).

In 2002 and 2003 the TPAO and BP formed a joint initiative to launch seismic tests, which came out positive. In 2005 the consortium began drilling 40 km northwest of the town of Hopa in Artvin province, located in the eastern part of the Black Sea (Hurriyet, March 30, 2005). The estimated reserves on this site are said to be around 800 million to one billion tons, which according to the Turkish press is close to that of Azerbaijan’s Shah Sea reserve (Aksam, March 31, 2005).

Parallel to the developments in the Eastern part of the Back Sea region, the TPAO and Brazilian Petroleum company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobas), signed a joint initiative in 2006 to explore oil reserves in the western part of the Back Sea. The contract between Petrobas and the TPAO foresees the establishment of a company with equal shares. The hydrocarbon drilling site consists of the area between the 3920 (Kırklareli province) and 3922 (Sinop province) numbered blocks (Hurriyet, August 17, 2006).

Recently, the president of the TPAO revealed his optimistic expectations. Because the exploration works produced satisfactory results, the companies would begin drilling by 2010. “In the site of Sinop, Petrobas is expecting 5 billion barrels of oil. In total, the expectation is 10 billion barrels of oil from Black Sea drilling sites. If the expectations are met, half of Turkey’s demand for oil will be provided by the Black Sea region in 2015, and Turkey will be an energy independent country by 2023” (Zaman, June 14). So far, Turkey has spent more than $500 million on drilling in the Black Sea (Hurriyet, June 14). The president of TPAO said that energy companies like Chevron and Exxon Mobil also have expressed an interest in drilling in the Back Sea.

It appears that the TPAO is optimistic about the results. It is the second time in recent months that the president of the TPAO has expressed this view since February. “An official from Calık Holdings Calık Enerji, an important player in Turkey’s energy sector, said that the gas detected and produced in Akcakoca on the Black Sea showed the carbon structure of the Black Sea, and the TPAO took action relying on the strength of these findings. The official pointed to the very large oil fields in the region and said that “if oil is actually detected, I suppose, a very large reserve will be found.”

BP Turkey President Tahir Uysal found the exploration works in the region exciting and said, it is too early to talk of the reserves now, but it is still an encouraging development” (Turkish Daily News, February 5). “The TPAO currently produces 90,000 barrels of oil per day. Turkey consumes 600,000 barrels of crude oil per day. Experts say the amount of money paid for oil will exceed $350 billion in the next 10 years” (Turkish Daily News, February 5).

If the drilling produces the expected results and makes Turkey less energy dependent, it could change Turkey’s relations with its problematic neighbors, such as Iran. Because of its dependence on energy, Turkey has had to sign energy contracts with Iran, which has been a burden on Turkish-US relations. Recently US Ambassador to Turkey Ross Wilson visited the Turkish Minister of Energy asking him to discontinue the energy projects with Iran. The Minister of Energy rejected the request on the basis of a lack of an alternative source. When Wilson suggested buying energy from Iraq, the Turkish minister expressed his pessimistic opinion about Iraq being an alternative, indicating that Iraq had no gas reserves. He said, “A bird in the hand is better than two birds on a tree.” In response, Ambassador Wilson stated “in a short time, the bird may burn with the branch it is sitting on” (Hurriyet, June 17).

(Eurasia Daily Monitor/The Jamestown Foundation)