Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on August 10 that Turkey had found the largest natural gas reserve to ever be discovered in the Black Sea, amounting to 320 billion cubic meters. He expressed hopes to bring the gas on line by 2023.
Erdogan and his government hailed the discovery as a major breakthrough and the beginning of a new era for Turkey.
He also claimed that this new discovery would end Turkey’s energy security issues, seeing that the country imports 99% of its natural gas from other countries.
However, the so-called “historic” discovery may not amount to much when market realities are taken into account.
First of all, 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas is not actually that much when considering that it would only fuel the energy-thirsty Turkish market for six years. Even this is an optimistic forecast considering that the quality of the gas and the depth of the new reserve are still unknown.
Many experts have noted that the real question remains of how much of this gas is actually extractable considering the massive depths of the Black Sea.
Similar reserves of natural gas have been found in the Bulgarian and Romanian territorial waters of the Black Sea, yet they went untapped because of the high costs associated with their development and the overall shrinking price of oil and gas.
Energy imports are the most important component of Turkey’s chronic current account deficit, which has been a persistent source of financial instability for the past decade.
Last year, Turkey’s energy import bill stood at 41 billion US dollars. Its suppliers included Russia, Iran, and Azerbaijan as well as Qatar and the US.
The Turkish government’s announcement of this discovery, complete with the usual pomp and circumstance, has been seen by many as yet another PR campaign intending to distract from the country’s deepening economic crisis.
Many argue that President Erdogan has increasingly come to attempt to draw public attention away from the government’s economic and electoral failings by fanning the flames of populist sentiments, as exemplified in the recent reconversion of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and the increased military provocation of Greece.
The Turkish lira has lost 30 per cent of its value against the US dollar this year alone, and unemployment and inflation rates continue to deteriorate – making the lives of ordinary Turks more difficult.
The Turkish economy is also expected to face another recession as a result of the economic fallout of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.