Diplomatic crises test Turkish-Russian relations, but energy infrastructure project progresses behind the scenes.
However, diplomatic relations were once again put to the test this week following the shooting of Russian ambassador to Turkey Andrey Karlov at a function in Ankara. The consequences of the attack remain difficult to predict, but it comes at a time when relations were beginning to show signs of improvement.
“The TurkStream gas pipeline will substantially enhance the reliability of gas supply to Turkey, as well as southern and southeastern Europe,” stated Alexey Miller, Chairman of Russia’s Gazprom, in an October press release about the signing of the agreement by the two nations. This took place in Istanbul at the same time as the 23rd World Energy Congress, and was hailed as an important step forward in the normalization of relations by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The 1,090-kilometer TurkStream venture will have an estimated capacity of 31.5 billion cubic meters per year through its two initial pipelines. The project will also involve the construction of two additional pipelines that will boost capacity to around 63 billion cubic meters a year. Gazprom has also signed a contract with Allseas Group to build the first string of the pipeline’s offshore section, which will involve the installation of some 900 kilometers of 32-inch diameter heavy-wall pipe. The maximum water depth of these pipelines will reach 2,200 meters.
Turkey buys nearly 30 billion cubic meters of gas from Russia annually, and is the second largest importer of Russian gas after Germany. The gas moved by the TurkStream is also intended to be exported to Europe, a market that in late October bought a record of nearly 590 million cubic meters per day of Russian gas according to Gazprom. Turkey currently imports gas through two pipelines: the Western Stream and the Blue Stream, which passes under the eastern Black Sea.
Rising European gas demand is also driving the construction of other pipelines in the region. TurkStream will compete with the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP), designed to transport Caspian gas from Azerbaijan through Georgia and Turkey and on into Europe. TANAP has been under construction since 2015 and is set to start operations in 2018, one year earlier than TurkStream.
The TANAP pipeline will run across the Greek-Turkish border, and will help Turkey meet a growing per capita energy demand while also decreasing its dependence on Russian gas. However, both TANAP and TurkStream evidence the country’s strategic importance as one of the world’s key energy corridors.