Turkmenistan signs gas deal with Türkiye, eyeing European sales

    REGION  02 March 2024 - 13:38

    Officials from Turkmenistan and Türkiye signed two preliminary agreements on Friday for the Central Asian country to supply gas to Türkiye and onward to Europe, deals that would aid Ankara's bid to become a regional energy hub.

    Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with Kurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the powerful chairman of Turkmenistan's People's Council, on the sidelines of the international Antalya Diplomacy Forum, where officials from the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding and a letter of intent on natural gas cooperation.

    "With these signatures, we aim to ship Turkmen gas first to Türkiye and then to global markets," Turkish energy minister Alparslan Bayraktar posted on X, formerly Twitter.

    Berdymukhamedov later told a panel audience at the forum that Turkmenistan's Galkynysh field held 27 trillion cubic meters of gas, "based on an international audit," adding that "we have a policy of diversifying routes" for exports. Turkmenistan possesses the world's fourth-largest natural gas reserves.

    Türkiye already receives natural gas from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran via pipelines as well as from several other countries as liquefied natural gas. Ankara, which currently supplies gas to several European countries, also has started to produce natural gas from its offshore field in the Black Sea.

    Berdymukhamedov said gas from Turkmenistan can reach Türkiye and Europe either via the Caspian Sea and Azerbaijan -- once his country and Azerbaijan conclude a maritime border agreement -- or through existing Iran pipeline infrastructure by having a gas swap deal.

    A high-level Turkmen official who requested anonymity told Nikkei Asia that Turkmenistan has enough gas reserves to supply Türkiye and Europe, while providing more gas to its main customer, China, at the same time.

    The European Union is scrambling to secure gas from alternative sources as the bloc tries to end its reliance on Russia as a natural gas supplier. The EU signed a MoU with Azerbaijan after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, aiming to double its gas imports from the energy-rich South Caucasus country, which shares a border with Turkmenistan across the Caspian Sea.

    The gas deals, if realized, could benefit many sides. Türkiye advances its ambitions of becoming a gas hub, and the EU gains more ammunition to end its dependence on Moscow, while Turkmenistan obtains more leverage against powerful neighbors Russia and China.

    A senior Azerbaijani official also welcomed the deal, telling Nikkei Asia that his country is ready to welcome Turkmen gas transiting to Türkiye and Europe through its existing pipeline infrastructure, once the Caspian Sea seabed agreement is sealed.

    "The geopolitics of Central Asian gas exports has changed radically since Russia's invasion of Ukraine," said professor Brenda Shaffer, an energy expert at the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. "In the past, Central Asian gas producers, especially Turkmenistan, had to fear retribution from Russia if they attempted to export gas to Europe. Moscow wanted to retain its dominance in the European gas market."

    However, Russia may be more open to competitors cultivating the European market now that China has become a major customer for its gas.

    "But now Moscow is cultivating China as its main export market and thus prefers for the Turkmen gas to go westward and not lower the price dynamics in gas exports to China. It is a completely new situation," she said. "Also, with the Russian gas entering China in larger volumes, Ashgabat fears reliance on one main market, and thus wants to diversify its exports."

    Caliber.Az

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