Turkey announces historic Black Sea natural gas find

By Selcan Hacaoglu, Vanessa Dezem and Cagan Koc on 8/21/2020

ANKARA (Bloomberg) - President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey has found 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas in the biggest ever discovery in the Black Sea, and hopes to begin production by 2023.

The lira and benchmark share index both gave up gains, though, possibly reflecting disappointment among investors over the size of the deposit.

”We have conducted this operation completely through national means,” Erdogan said Friday in a much-trailed press conference at his office in Istanbul. “We didn’t even rely one bit on foreign sources in drilling operations.”

The Fatih drill ship located the gas in the so-called Tuna-1 field, he said, and exploration is continuing in other fields.

“The question now is how much of this gas is recoverable,” said Jonathan Lamb, oil and gas senior analyst at Wood & Company, a Czech investment bank. “This is not clear yet. What the market really wants to know also is how much they can produce per year, but I don’t think they are in the position to say that yet.”

The lira fell 0.7% at 7.3470 per dollar at 4:57 p.m. The Borsa Istanbul 100 index fell as much as 1.8%, while shares in energy companies including refiner Tupras, Aksa Enerji and Aygaz dropped sharply after the news.

Black Sea Find

Turkey bought three drilling ships in recent years as it dramatically expanded energy exploration in the Black Sea and contested waters of the eastern Mediterranean. It’s keen to find sizable energy reserves to ease its heavy reliance on imports from Iran, Iraq and Russia, and support one of the biggest economies in the Middle East.

The Fatih has been drilling to a depth of 3,500 to 4,000 meters (11,500 to 13,000 feet), Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said last month. Turkey’s state-run oil company TPAO, however, has no experience in deep-sea gas production and would likely need to enlist a major firm to exploit a field. With oil and gas prices having slumped, the economics of developing such a find may be less attractive than in the past.

Tuna-1, some 150 kilometers from Turkey’s coast, is close to an area where maritime borders of Bulgaria and Romania converge and not far from Romania’s Neptun block, the largest gas find in the Black Sea in decades discovered eight years ago by Petrom and Exxon.

Romania has shallow-water gas projects, but a major deep-water find by eight years ago has still to be exploited. A company backed by the Carlyle Group is also exploring off Romania, aiming to get gas in 2021. Rosneft has explored in the Russian part of the Black Sea but without concrete results.

Turkey is mired in territorial disputes with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean as it searches for oil and gas in contested waters. France has temporarily increased its military presence to ward off Turkish steps, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said the EU was concerned over the increased tensions.

Erdogan said he also expects “good news” from exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

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