Turkish unrest boosts local gas storage, LNG station prospects

Last week’s attempted coup in Turkey, the three-month state of emergency just declared by the neighboring country’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the polarization of citizens, and, above all, the overwhelming fear that Turkey is entering a period of prolonged unrest amid which an eventual outbreak of civil war cannot be ruled out, are all new factors reshaping plans for the region’s energy projects.

Energy-sector players with interests have already recognized the arrival of a new era for the region and are rethinking and revising their plans accordingly, regardless of whether they are openly admitting so or not.

For example, Russia is now displaying a revived interest for the development of a stalled oil pipeline to link Burgas, on the Bulgarian Black Sea coast, with Alexandroupoli, in Greece’s northeast. The pipeline would bypass the Bosporus and Dardanelles and offer an alternative route for the delivery of Russian and Caspian oil should any shipping limitations arise in the Black Sea straits, as Nikolay Tokarev, president of the Russian pipeline company Transneft, put it just days ago.

The prospects for the Trans Anatolian Pipeline (TANAP), a major pipeline planned to transfer natural gas from the Azeri deposit Shah Deniz across the Georgian-Turkish borders, in Turkey’s west, are suddenly not as bright as a result of the latest political turmoil in Turkey. This pipeline, if completed, would transport natural gas to the Greek-Turkish border and, from there, continue via the TAP (Trans Adriatic Pipeline) across to Italy.

Yesterday, the consortium behind the TANAP project rushed to assure that Turkey’s political developments will not affect the pipeline’s progress, noting that the pipeline’s construction remains on schedule. However, it is quite obvious that a 1,800-kilometer pipeline crossing a country mired in major political uncertainty represents a business venture whose current risk greatly exceeds the level originally anticipated. Without a doubt, within this context, the consortium will reassess its plans.

The prospects of other projects have gained ground as a result of the situation in Turkey. These include a planned floating LNG station in Alexandroupoli, as well as an underground natural gas storage facility at a depleted deposit in the Gulf of Kavala, northern Greece.

Development of the Alexandroupoli’s floating LNG station, if the required capital and entrepreneurial participation are secured, promises to establish the facility as a safe supply point for the TAP pipeline, if the TANAP project is delayed or rerouted. The Alexandroupoli LNG station also promises to support the planned Greek-Bulgarian IGB interconnector.

During a recent meeting in Athens with Greece’s energy minister Panos Skourletis, officials of US energy company Cheniere, primarily active in LNG-related businesses, declared, clearer than ever before, the company’s interest to take part in the development of the Alexandroupoli LNG station.

Gastrade, a Copelouzos corporate group company and fundemantal proponent behind the investment plan for the Alexandroupoli station, plans to have finalized an investment plan and capacity commitments from traders by the end of the year. The objective is to complete the LNG station’s construction by the end of 2018.