WELL SAID

Turkey 2014 | ENERGY | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Besim Şişman, CEO of Türkiye Petrolleri Anonim Ortaklığı (TPAO), on exploration opportunities in Turkey, the foreign investment environment, and getting a foothold abroad.

What growth potential does TPAO see in Turkey?

TPAO certainly has further room for growth, and we plan to be worth around $50 billion to the state by end-2013. We're looking to transform the company and become more flexible in quick decision-making. This requires a partial overhaul of Turkey's regulatory environment. Firstly, however, we must be perfectly clear about what we could do to improve, and only then must we approach the government regarding its own responsibilities in the equation. Over the past 10 years, GDP has risen from around $250 billion to approximately $800 billion. In parallel with this growth, TPAO's total investments and total revenue have jumped to $8.2 billion and $18 billion, respectively, over the last decade. What's more, only around 15% of potential offshore reserves have been explored, which is negligible. For instance, TPAO has the most licenses in the Mediterranean Sea, which is approximately 150,000 square kilometers, as well as owning 40% of the Black Sea coastline. There is also great potential in this respect, both conventional and unconventional, especially in the southeast and the Thracian region of Turkey, where our colleagues from the exploration department are currently working. A small team is set to commence drilling in the Thrace Basin at the beginning of 2014. Turkey, according to a recent report by the International Energy Agency (IEA), has a production potential of 20 trillion cubic feet of shale gas and oil, indicating that this area deserves very some serious attention. Furthermore, Turkey is located between major energy producers and consumers. Its geopolitical position also makes it unique as a transit country. The transportation and distribution of energy resources to the market is now as important as oil production. All these advantages make TPAO a partner of choice for companies interested in major hydrocarbon undertakings in Turkey and abroad.

What makes the Black Sea an attractive opportunity for foreign oil companies?

The Black Sea has many sound leads and prospective indices, as well as robust oil and gas infrastructure. Basically, it is an attractive region simply because of its sheer core potential. We want to cooperate with other companies in the region to fully develop it. There is also notable potential in the Black Sea region, where Turkey has 400,000 square kilometers of coastline. So far, only five deep-sea wells have been drilled. In the North Sea, the full extent of oil reserves was only discovered after drilling 35 wells. Turkey has spent around $400 million gaining seismic data from the Black Sea, subsequently inviting multinationals such as Shell, ExxonMobil, and Petrobras to offer their opinions. We have developed lasting relationships and begun work on wells. We incurred a capital expenditure of $250 million on one well, while the other participating companies accounted for the remaining $1.3 billion.

How would you characterize the importance for Turkey of partnering foreign investors?

We have developed some solid projects with Shell in the western Black Sea, and also close to Antalya on the Mediterranean coast. We are also working solo on a project near Iskenderun, where we have started drilling, and are planning around 10 wells in the Mediterranean over the next four to five years. In the past we have drilled a number of wells near Iskenderun and Mersin, at the time having seen some oil and gas potential, but we are keen to revisit the area to reassess the feasibility of production. Meanwhile, we are also working on the licensed blocks of Northern Cyprus. Israel, too, has also made discoveries in Southern Cyprus and in 1Q2014 offshore development is set to commence. We have very good partners in Shell, and we want to work together on the transportation of gas through Turkey. Participation in this project could also serve to improve our relations with Israel. It would also further relations with Cyprus, especially in terms of water and electricity. In this context we may also talk of Iraq, where we have four firm ongoing projects, with two apiece in oil and gas. The technical conditions in that market are challenging, but we have committed to a significant investment of $6 million.

What is your outlook for the energy sector in Turkey?

It is vital to meet Turkey's increasing energy demand for sustainable economic growth. Properly analyzing recent energy policies as well as changing business conditions to develop a pro-active strategy, we have revised our master plan. Our main strategy is to establish consortia with major companies, sharing risks and transferring know-how and technology, and buy into a company at an oil-producing field abroad to increase our total reserves and revenues. To that end, we have established companies in various countries and want to boost ties with international oil companies through the project management model. After discussions with the related ministry and other partners, we will make public our master plan in early 2014. Our passion for our country, our faith in our staff, our perserverance, and our belief in success are our source of motivation to contribute to creating a stronger Turkey on the road to being one of the world's major economies. We are already very fortunate in terms of our highly qualified personnel, not least our engineers, and I'm optimistic for the future.

“It is vital to meet Turkey's increasing energy demand for sustainable economic growth."

© The Business Year - April 2014