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Turkey Looks To Expand Oil, Gas Drilling In Black Sea

Turkey plans to deploy a third drillship to explore for natural resources in the Black Sea, its energy minister Fatih Dönmez told Anadolu Agency in an interview on Saturday, while tensions in the Mediterranean over Turkey’s gas drilling campaign seem to subside.

Turkey’s third drillship, Kanuni, will begin exploration in the Black Sea in early 2021 and will operate alongside the drillship Fatih, which made earlier this year a natural gas discovery in the Black Sea, which Turkey says is its largest-ever gas find.

Meanwhile, the European Union (EU) is trying to de-escalate the tension in the eastern Mediterranean, where Turkey has been drilling for gas in waters encroaching on what Cyprus and Greece claim as their territorial waters.

Tensions between EU members Greece and Cyprus on the one hand, and Turkey on the other, flared up again in recent months after Turkey resumed drilling and exploration for oil and gas in the eastern Mediterranean in waters that Greece and Cyprus consider part of their territorial waters.  

The heightened tension in the eastern Mediterranean and the growing rift between Greece and Turkey, who are also both part of the NATO alliance, has had the EU consider possible sanctions on Turkey over the drilling in the eastern Mediterranean.  

According to Refinitiv Eikon data reported by Reuters on Monday, a Turkish exploration vessel has left the area in which it was operating off Cyprus and returned to Turkey’s coast—a move that the EU welcomed and said would ease the tensions in the eastern Mediterranean.

Last week, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that “The tensions in the Mediterranean have been very high because of Turkey's drilling activities in the Cypriot Exclusive Economic Zone and exploratory activities in Greek waters. It is good that there is now a reliable dialogue between Turkey and Greece that has begun.”

“We therefore expect that Turkey from now on abstains from unilateral actions,” von der Leyen said last Thursday, adding that in case Ankara renews such actions the EU “will use all its instruments and options available.”

By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com

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  • Mamdouh Salameh on October 05 2020 said:
    Turkey’s plans to deploy a third drillship to explore for oil and gas in the Black Sea after its earlier major gas discovery and the reports that a Turkish exploration vessel has left the area in which it was operating off Cyprus and returned to Turkey’s coast could help de-escalate tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean.

    The discovery of some 320 billion cubic metres (bcm) of gas off the Turkish Black Sea coast on the 21st of August was hailed as a game-changer. The new find, one of the world’s largest discoveries, has the potential to meet up to $80 bn of Turkey’s energy needs over several decades according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).

    News of the Black Sea discovery overshadowed the worsening tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean where competing claims on maritime borders, exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and energy resources have put Turkey, Greece, and Cyprus at loggerheads with one another.

    However, if energy is Turkey’s only strategic interest in the Eastern Mediterranean, then here is my proposed solution which should satisfy all the parties involved based on the following provisions.

    The first is that the gas riches in Cypriot waters should be divided between the Greek and Turkish Cypriots on the basis of the size of the area each occupies in the Island. In return Turkey will cease exploring for energy resources in Cypriot EEZ.

    The second provision is that Greece, Israel and Cyprus should forgo the proposed EastMed gas pipeline which is planned to carry Israeli and Cypriot gas exports under the Mediterranean to Greece and the European Union (EU) in favour of an 80-mile long gas pipeline connecting the Turkish Cypriot enclave with the Turkish coast where it will connect with existing gas pipeline carrying gas to the EU. Israeli and Cypriot gas exports could be exported to the EU via Turkey using the proposed Turkish pipeline.

    The third provision is a settlement of the Turkish-Cypriot dispute over their overlapping EEZs in accordance of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

    Turkish President Erdogan coming under international pressure and facing economic difficulties internally may choose as a gesture of goodwill to freeze exploratory activities in the disputed waters around Cyprus or off the Greek island of Kastellorizo using the Black Sea discovery to entice warring parties to come to the negotiation table. The reported withdrawal of a Turkish exploration vessel from Cypriot waters could be that very goodwill gesture.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London

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