Russia and Ukraine may be struggling to come to agreement over their maritime territories, but Russian relations with Turkey seem set to improve with the inauguration of the TurkStream gas pipeline.
The Audacia pipe-laying vessel. Photo: Gazprom
The leaders of Russia and Turkey, both increasingly shunned by the West, came together to oversee the final stage in the TurkStream pipeline project recently.
The final pipeline now runs from the Russkaya compressing station on the Russian Black Sea coast to the town of Kıyıköy near the Bulgarian border in Turkey, where Jersey-based Petrofac is developing onshore pipelines and a gas receiving terminal.
The Turkish Stream (TurkStream) project replaced the South Stream gas pipeline project, which was to pass through the Black Sea to Bulgaria and supply gas to Southeast and Central Europe.
In December 2014 Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom was forced to abandon the South Stream project in the face of strong opposition from the EU.
Financed through Gazprom’s investment program, construction of the TurkStream began near Anapa, a small resort town in Russia, in May 2017. The offshore stretch, running under the Black Sea, represents 930km of the total 1,090km twin pipeline.
Once up and running the system is expected to have a capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters per year. The pipeline throughput is intended firstly for Turkish consumers, and secondly for residents of South and Southeast Europe.
TurkStream will meet rising gas demand in the Turkish market (2017 natural gas consumption hit a record high of 53.5 billion cubic meters, a 20% YoY increase), forge stronger economic ties between the two states, and will allow Gazprom to bypass Ukraine’s gas transmission system.
Turkey is the second largest buyer of Russian gas after Germany. The country relies heavily on gas imports from Russia (28.6 billion cubic meters in 2017), Iran (9.2 billion cubic meters), and Azerbaijan (6.5 billion cubic meters) to meet national demand. About 45% of Russian gas reaches Turkey via the Trans-Balkan pipeline that passes through Ukraine, while the remaining 55% comes through the Blue Stream pipeline.
TurkStream will become fully operational by the end of 2019. However, establishing Turkey as Russia’s gas transit route to Europe could more complicated than this.
Although Gazprom reached an agreement to build a transit pipeline (the second leg of TurkStream) in cooperation with Turkey’s state pipeline operator Botaş, pipelines in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary are unlikely to be in place even by the end of 2020. After commissioning TurkStream Gazprom will be able to supply gas only to Turkey’s neighbors Greece and Bulgaria.
Russian business publication Kommersant reported that the transit route through the Balkans would be the preferred option, among other reasons because the groundwork for South Stream has already been laid and this will allow Gazprom to supply all of its clients without needing to pass through Ukraine.