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Turkey, Once a Major Importer of Iranian Oil, Turns Towards Libya

What a difference international sanctions and intense U.S. pressure make.

Turkey in March imported more than 270,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, nearly triple the previous month’s 100,000 bpd, or 401,349 tons, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

And now? Turkey sought a waiver from U.S. sanctions against Iran and received a temporary one, along with India, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Notably China, which buys as much as a fifth of Iran’s crude exports and Singapore did not receive exemptions.

Scrambling to make up the looming energy deficit, Turkey has begun talks with Saudi Arabia to make up any shortfalls caused by obeying the sanctions and on 16 June Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced that his government had signed a one million ton oil supply deal with Libya.

But in trading out Iran for Libya and Saudi Arabia, Turkey has swapped relative political stability for uncertainty. Whatever one thinks of the mullahcracy ruling Iran, it has been in power since 1979. Post-Gaddafi Libya is hardly a stable state as yet, with tensions between the eastern part of the country, which controls much of the nation’s oil output, rising with the authorities in Tripoli.

And the recent death of Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz at 78 years old may herald a period of instability for the nation. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is 88 years old, and has now outlived two appointed successors from among the elderly group of sons of Saudi's founding monarch, King Abdul-Aziz, in a country where more than half the current population is under 25 years old.

And in the meantime, Turkey, which for the past decade has imported 93 percent of the oil and 98 percent of the natural gas it consumes, is beating the regional bushes to secure imports wherever it can.

On 7 June State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) Vice President Suleyman Gasimov stated that his nation would proceed with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) construction project, which could boost Azeri investments in Turkey to more than $17 billion, building upon last year’s momentum, when Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the consortium that will build the 1,240-mile long TANAP, estimated to cost $5-$7 billion to supply gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore Caspian Shah Deniz natural gas fields westwards through Turkey to Europe.

Another possible regional option is Iraq, where Turkey is exploring possible oil export deals with the Kurdish Regional Government, despite the fact that the outlawed separatist Marxist Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (Kurdistan Workers' Party, PKK) has been battling the Turkish government from bases there since 1984.

But, not to worry. Turkey’s troubling energy deficits in the future are to be met by – nuclear energy. Addressing a "New Energy Corridor" panel discussion as part of the World Economic Forum on 14 June in Istanbul, Yildiz told his audience, “We are a country without a nuclear power plant. However, we are determined to have nuclear power plants. We want to meet our increasing energy needs by erecting at least 23 nuclear units by the year 2023. This implies building nuclear power plants in three regions of Turkey.”

And the crown piece of Turkey’s investment in nuclear power is to be its first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, which Yildiz has proclaimed is moving forward despite public opposition.

Russia’s Atomenergoproekt has announced that engineering surveys at the Akkuyu NPP site on Turkey's southern Mediterranean coast are due to be completed later this year. Four 1,200 MWe VVER-1200 reactors are planned for Akkuyu under a 2010 agreement between the governments of Russia and Turkey. Akkuyu’s four units are to come online in 2019–22.

The Akkuyu NPP would be situated in a region subject to earthquakes. On 27 June 1998, a major earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale occurred in nearby Adana, which damaged 74,300 buildings, killed 150, injured 1,000 and caused damage estimated at $1 billion. Research has determined that an active fault line, the Ecemis fault, runs close to the Akkuyu site.

In the wake of the 11 March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Turkey’s governmental decision seems at the very least rash.

But we still leave the last word to the International Medical Corps, which dispatches personnel to disaster zones around the world. Speaking of Turkey the IMC observed, “Turkey frequently experiences seismic activity and authorities have significant capacity to manage disasters.” As regards Fukushima, “An International Medical Corps emergency response team was on-the-ground within 48 hours of the disaster, assessing needs and coordinating with the Japanese government.”

Fifteen months later, they’re still there.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com




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  • Michelle S. Jensen on June 19 2012 said:
    I agree with Mr. Daly in that the decision of the government of Turkey to put so much future reliance on nuclear energy is rash. The extreme fiscal costs of nuclear energy I thought would be enough to put anyone off. But then building one in an earthquake prone zone? That is deliberately creating an accident waiting to happen.

    The possible oil imports from the Kurdish area of Iraq could be extremely interesting. It is a very mountainous area. Would the oil be transported by pipeline or truck? Either way is subject to terrorist attack. Plus, trucking is weather dependent, as in a snowed in mountain pass. A pipeline would require one (if not several) boosting stations to get the oil across mountains. That is something else that would be vulnerable to attack.

    Then, passing through an area that is the home of and quite friendly to the PKK opens other avenues of potential trouble. Even if the PKK could be made a profit sharing partner in the pipeline to assure their cooperation (would the Turkish government even contemplate that?), who could say if a rogue or splinter faction would not attack the transport method? Would the government of Irag on the other hand allow the Kurds the freedom to make such a deal and perhaps help fund their independence in an already fragile Iraq that is still facing sectarian violence and might split up into Sunni and Shia states?

    The TANAP pipeline is a good start. But that originates in an area that has known quite a bit of war over the past two decades since the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Can all the countries involved with the oil and gas from the Caspian area give peace a chance?

    Getting oil from Libya is a good chance for Turkey to send money and with it possible influence for peace into that troubled area.

    All in all it should be a very interesting immediate future for Turkey's energy needs.
  • Philip Andrews on June 20 2012 said:
    How far is this matter of libyan oil substituting for Iranian just so much political hype? From what little I understand of oil matters Libyan oilis a very specific variety and very different from Gulf oil. Would welcome some comment on this.

    Secondly there is the question of stability. Iranian oil supply is relatively stable despite sanctions etc. Libyan is anything but that. Turkey, a nation of 70 million imports 1/3 of her oil from Iran. That is an enormous quantity to try to make up from other sources. Are the Turks doing this merely as a grsture to Washington? Why should they risk relativelky strong economic growth for a gesture?

    I'm not so sure about the terrorist arguements against oil pipelines and trucking. From what I understand Iran is already smuggling oil by truck through Turkey to that port on the Turkish south coast (Ceyhan?). Any oil transportation route is vulnerable to disruption by state/non-state actors (Russian military in Georgia against Nabucco/terrorists in Iraq etc.).

    I suspect the Turks would like to make Northern Kurdistan into a quasi-Turkish military zone to place Turkish military protection over the oil wells at Kirkuk and Mosul in return for a more or less reliable supply from there. This is probably why Erdogan is making conciliatory gestures towards the Kurds. It makes sense for Turkey to have an oil supply closer to home that it can defend militarily if necessary.

    As for the nuclear, in Turkey that would be complete insanity. Sorry Fred...!

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