Accelerated activity in exploration for energy resources has led to increased interest in uncovering hard-to-reach reserves—a challenging, but potentially rewarding prospect.

According to Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources reports, Turkey's untapped energy sources have the potential to meet a significant amount of domestic energy demand. Speaking in June 2013, Minister Taner Yıldız highlighted the huge potential for shale gas in the country, should it be discovered in large quantities. Meanwhile, Turkey has initiated efforts to explore for oil near the border with Iraq.

With the goal of uncovering shale gas reserves large enough to reduce Turkey's energy import dependency, the search for shale gas deposits has been focused on the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. Global energy giant Shell and the national oil company Turkish Petroleum Corporation (TPAO) began searching for shale gas in the eastern province's Sarıbuğday-1 natural gas field in September 2012. However, “We have already undertaken a series of shale gas exploration activities throughout Turkey," Minister Yıldız assured the public in June.

TPAO has reportedly drilled as far as 3,000 meters below the surface in partnership with Shell, and the companies have also found traces of shale gas in the central provinces of Ankara, Nevşehir, and Konya. “We intend to continue exploration and make use of these resources for the good of the economy," Minister Yıldız concluded. To this end, the authorities are exploring the possibility of shale gas resources in the Sivas and Salt Lake basins.

The US-based Energy Information Agency (EIA) estimates that there could be up to 4.6 trillion cubic meters (tcm) of shale gas available in the country, of which 654 billion cubic meters (bcm) is considered to be technically recoverable. In addition, there are 4.7 billion barrels of recoverable shale oil resources lying in wait at the same sites. If put to full use, these resources could supply all of Turkey's hydrocarbon demands for 14 years.

With the unconventional resource industry in Turkey still experiencing its infancy stage, the presence of international investors will be key in the development of the shale gas sector. “There are opportunities here for the right investor," Anna İlhan, Founder and Managing Partner of Anna Enerji, advised TBY. Aside from work in Central Anatolia and the Southeast of the country, “There are other areas that need to be evaluated as well. Therefore, we need attract 'wildcats' that target opportunities with high risk, meaning that the wells they drill may not lead to a discovery," she elaborated.

Although shale gas has taken a lead role in the direction of new discoveries, the possible presence of heavy oil in Turkey has not gone ignored. While Turkey will continue to be an importer of gas without significant oil discoveries in the Mediterranean or Black Sea, it is possible that findings in the Southeast could accelerate Turkey's journey toward self-sufficiency. Prior to a visit to the US in early 2013, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan revealed his intentions to establish a joint venture in northern Iraq, stating that Turkey is seeking to collaborate on oil exploration with ExxonMobil and the local administration there. Noting the improved security situation in the area, Kubilay Yıldırım, General Manager of Tiway Turkey Limited, is looking forward to the opening up of the area near the border for further exploration. “The only way to grow in terms of reserves is to discover," he explained to TBY, adding, “TPAO is going to continue exploring this underexplored region. The security issues are also improving now, and this will help us dramatically."