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Less than a month before general elections that will decide the fate of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the government has announced that a natural gas discovery in the Black Sea will start production and deliveries as soon as April 20, helping the country move towards energy independence.
The discovery, said to encompass some 710 billion cubic meters worth more than $500 billion, could meet Turkey’s residential domestic demand for 35 years and industrial demand for a decade and a half, according to Turkey’s natural resource minister.
The discovery of the Sakarya field in the Black Sea is now set to begin transmission later this week and will initially produce some 10 million cubic meters per day, ramping up to 40 million cubic meters per day in three years.
Distribution of natural gas to households is set to begin in May, according to the minister, as reported by CNN Turk.
This is a major victory for embattled President Erdogan, whose popularity has dropped significantly since a devastating earthquake left over 40,000 people dead when tens of thousands of buildings collapsed due to code violations.
The start-up of the Sakarya field will allow Erdogan to boost his electoral chances by giving away free energy at a time when Turks are struggling with soaring inflation.
Earlier this month, Bloomberg cited UniCredit SpA economists as saying they expected Turkey’s annual inflation to end the year at 50%, though tighter monetary policy could ease that closer to 24% in 2024, depending on the outcome of May elections.
While Ankara will likely be eyeing natural gas exports to Europe to boost state coffers, promises of lower energy bills at home are crucial to Erdogan’s election chances.
On May 14, Erdogan–who has ruled for 20 years and has become increasingly authoritarian–will go up against an opposition candidate dubbed the “Turkish Gandhi”, Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, who appears to have a slight lead in the polls.
Turkey is dependent on oil and gas imports from Russia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Qatar, the U.S., Nigeria and Algeria.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com