Opinion: Tuna-1 gas discovery could have far-reaching implications

A gas discovery of the scale of the Tuna-1 find in the Black Sea, if developed, would be transformational for Turkey, given its overwhelming reliance on imports and crippling energy import bill.

Opinion: Tuna-1 gas discovery could have far-reaching implications

Turkey is chiefly reliant on piped gas from Russia, Azerbaijan and Iran but the share of liquefied natural gas imports has also continued to grow.

Thomas Purdie, an analyst on Wood Mackenzie’s upstream research team, said:

“Even if the official 320 billion cubic metre figure given by President Tayyip Erdogan when he announced the discovery is treated as an estimate of gas in place, this is Turkey’s biggest-ever find – by a wide margin – and one of the largest global discoveries of 2020. What’s more, it reaffirms the deepwater Black Sea’s hydrocarbon potential after several disappointing wells in Bulgaria. However, no matter the political and economic importance, reaping the supply rewards will be complex and a 2023 date for bringing the discovery – renamed Sakarya - looks ambitious.

First and foremost, the discovery will need to be appraised by more wells – to improve understanding of the geology and confirm resource estimates. It’s early days, but any future development would cost billions of dollars. Deepwater projects are complex in any environment, but the Black Sea poses additional logistical challenges that must be managed. This is one of the factors that has stalled Romania’s Neptun Deep megaproject, located just 100 kilometres north of the Tuna well.” 

Purdie said TPAO would benefit from bringing an international partner into the project, adding:

“There could be attractions despite the market outlook – highly competitive tax terms in a basin that international oil companies know increasingly well over recent years. Majors operating across the border in Romania and Bulgaria have had mixed recent success, but will take note of this momentous news.” 

Murray Douglas, director, Europe gas, said:

“The Turkish gas market is large, with 2019 demand of almost 45 billion cubic metres. Gas demand has fallen year-on-year since 2017. Much of that is down to the weak Turkish economy and increased competition from coal-fired and renewable generation. However, despite coronavirus, Turkish gas demand has only fallen 3%, year-to-date, versus last year. That is a less severe fall than many other European markets. In the 2020s, this discovery could have far-reaching implications for future gas imports and upcoming negotiations with suppliers – with Gazprom, Azerbaijan and Iran.”