Erdogan Unveils Turkey’s largest ever discovery of natural gas

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that in the Black Sea, Turkey has discovered 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas, its biggest energy discovery ever, and plans to launch development by 2023.

The Fatih drilling ship was locating the deposit in the so-called Tuna-1 sector, Erdogan said Friday in his Istanbul palace at a much-trailed press conference. Explorations in other fields are ongoing, he said.

After the announcement, the lira reversed earlier losses against the dollar. At 3:42 p.m. it was down 0.3 percent. At Istanbul. Also, the Borsa Istanbul 100 index gave up gains and fell as much as 1.8 percent, likely reflecting frustration over find scale.

Turkey has been buying three drilling ships in recent years as it has significantly increased energy exploration in the Black Sea and disputed eastern Mediterranean waters. It is keen to find significant energy reserves to ease its heavy dependence on imports from Iran, Iraq, and Russia, and to boost one of the Middle East’s biggest economies.

The Fatih has been drilling to a depth of 3,500 to 4,000 meters (11,500 to 13,000 feet), Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said last month. TPAO, however, has no experience in deep-sea gas production and would likely need to enlist a major oil company to exploit a field. With oil and gas prices have slumped, the economics of developing such a find may be less attractive than in the past.

Tuna-1, some 150 kilometers from Turkey’s coast, is close to an area where maritime borders of Bulgaria and Romania converge and not far from Romania’s Neptun block, the largest gas find in the Black Sea in decades discovered eight years ago by Petrom and Exxon.

Romania has shallow-water gas projects, but a major deep-water find by eight years ago has still to be exploited. A company backed by The Carlyle Group is also exploring off Romania, aiming to get gas in 2021. Rosneft has explored in the Russian part of the Black Sea but without concrete results.

Turkey is mired in territorial disputes with Greece and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean as it searches for oil and gas in contested waters. France has temporarily increased its military presence to ward off Turkish steps, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday said the EU was concerned over the increased tensions.

Erdogan said he also expects “good news” from exploration activities in the eastern Mediterranean.

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