By July 18, 2016 Read More →

Turkey’s aborted coup draws attention to nation’s role in oil and gas transit for volatile region


Turkish oil tanker.

Turkish Straits busy route for oil tankers, oil and gas pipelines increasingly important to Russia, Europe, Middle East

Friday’s attempted coup in Turkey has shone a spotlight on the country as an important route for energy transportation, especially for oil and gas headed to Europe and other Atlantic markets from Russia, the Caspian region, and the Middle East.


Source: US Energy Information Administration.

Growing volumes of Caspian oil are being sent to Black Sea ports such as Novorossisyk, Russia and Supsa, Georgia and then to Western markets by tanker via the Turkish Straits (Bosporus and Dardanelles waterways), according to the US Energy Information Administration. Caspian oil and oil from northern Iraq also cross Turkey by pipeline, through the Ceyhan oil terminal on Turkey’s Mediterranean coast.

The Turkish Straits, which includes the Bosporus waterway and the Dardanelles waterway, is one of the busiest maritime chokepoints in the world, handling about 48,000 vessels each year. Significant volumes of Russian and Caspian oil move by tanker via the Turkish Straits to Western markets. An estimated 2.9 million b/d of petroleum liquids flowed through the Turkish Straits in 2013. About 70% of this volume was crude oil, and the remainder was petroleum products, according to the EIA.

Turkish maritime authorities reopened Istanbul’s Bosphorus Strait to transiting tankers after shutting it earlier on Saturday for several hours, according to Reuters. The Bosphorus divides Istanbul into European and Asian sides.

A spokesman for Russia’s pipeline monopoly Transneft said the main Black Sea port of Novorossiisk was operating normally and had enough tankers near the port to continue loading operations uninterrupted until July 25 regardless of what happens in the Bosphorus.

Reuters ship tracking data showed that around 10 oil tankers were anchored off the coast of Istanbul on the southern side of the strait, still waiting for instructions to sail through the narrow passage.

A BP-led group operating oil and gas pipelines running from Azerbaijan to Turkey via Georgia said there had been no disruptions to shipments.

“Both pipelines are working normally,” BP-Georgia said.

A source at Azeri state energy company SOCAR also told Reuters oil shipping to Ceyhan was uninterrupted.

Turkey currently has two crude oil import pipelines: the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline from Azerbaijan and a pipeline from northern Iraq to Ceyhan, Turkey.

The Iraq pipeline has two branches. The original line of the Iraq pipeline stretches from the Iraq-Turkey border to Kirkuk, Iraq. However, little oil has flowed on this part of the pipeline since the Islamic State began seizing territory in the area in early 2014 and the pipeline was sabotaged.

In 2013, the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) completed construction of a second line of the Iraq pipeline, beginning at Taq Taq field near Erbil in the KRG controlled portion of northern Iraq, which joins the existing pipeline to Ceyhan, Turkey near the Iraq-Turkey border. Actual oil exports have varied from month-to-month, but in May 2015, exports to Ceyhan, Turkey via the KRG line exceeded 550,000 b/d, including about 400,000 b/d of crude from KRG controlled fields.

The EIA says Turkey is “primed to become a significant natural gas pipeline hub.” Currently, however, most of its natural gas pipeline connections only bring natural gas into the country, as growing demands have left little natural gas for export.

At the end of 2013, BOTAŞ had more than 7,600 miles of natural gas pipelines in Turkey, including interconnections to four international import pipelines and one international export pipeline. Turkey is expanding its pipeline system to better accommodate growing domestic natural gas consumption, as well as to transit more natural gas to European consumers.

International and regional politics play a role in any pipeline that crosses borders, but politics is particularly critical in realizing pipelines proposed to transit Turkey. Russia-Ukraine relations and Russia-EU relations have both had a prominent role in Gazprom’s planned Turkish stream pipeline.

Relations between Turkey, the Kurdish Regional Government, and the Iraqi central government will likely affect plans to build a pipeline from northern Iraq to Turkey.

Additionally, insurgents in Turkey and in neighboring countries have, on several occasions, attacked natural gas pipelines.

With files from Reuters.

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