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Energy hopes, US drive renewed Turkey, Israel relations

Leviathan gas could wind up in Turkey, not EU

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THESSALONIKI – The restoration of diplomatic ties between Turkey and Israel after a six-year break creates fresh impetus for regional alliances in the exploration, development and export of hydrocarbons in Eastern Mediterranean.

Ankara and Tel Aviv signed a reconciliation deal on June 26 to restore ties, ending years of tensions following a deadly 2010 raid on an aid flotilla that sought to breach Israel’s security blockade on Hamas-held Gaza. The deal includes $21 million in Israeli compensation for Turkish victims of the Mavi Marmara incident.

The reconciliation deal preluded a decision by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and Russian Vladimir Putin to restore relations, severed by the 2015 Turkish downing of a Russian jet in Syria. “Turkey-Israel negotiations were going on and America was supporting to establish these relations again,” the former CEO of state-owned BOTAŞ Petroleum Pipeline Corporation, Gokhan Yardim, told New Europe in Thessaloniki on June 29. “But if we established the relations and made the agreements with the Russians before the Israelis, I’m sure the Americans would be sad,” he said on the sidelines of 9th Southeast Europe Energy Dialogue, organised by IENE. “But the timing was very good and very proper way this happened,” he added.

Yardim said that following the reconciliation agreement between Ankara and Tel Aviv, many private Turkish energy companies are very enthusiastic to get involved in Israel’s offshore Leviathan project. “But it’s not easy to realise the Leviathan project because it needs huge investment,” he said.

Yardim, who is currently the general manager of Turkerler Energy Investment Holding in Turkey, argued that for the Leviathan field, the most economical and easiest way is to bring part of the gas to Egypt and liquefy it because there is a capacity there. But he also argued that part of the gas could be exported via Turkey. “I’m convinced that the reserves of Leviathan are enough to realise two projects,” Yardim said.

IENE Executive Director Costis Stambolis told New Europe in Thessaloniki that some regional gas could be exported to Turkey. “I don’t think there are any advanced plans to transport gas via Turkey to Europe,” he said. “It doesn’t make economic sense. But it does make sense for gas from the region to land in Turkey and for this gas to be consumed to cover local, domestic needs. Because Turkey is trying to diversify its gas supply, minimise gas coming from Russia,” he added.

Stambolis said the race for exporting gas from Eastern Mediterranean is on. “We assume that new gas from the East Med will become available in two-three-four years from Leviathan, maybe a little extra from Tamar or neighbouring fields, from Aphrodite [Cyprus], and also from Zohr, if there is an accommodation with Egypt concerning Egyptian consumption,” he said.

“This gas, at this stage, we cannot say which direction is going to go. There’re already some fairly advanced plans for this gas to be sold to Egypt, either for domestic consumption or to LNG liquefaction terminals,” he said.

At the same time, Stambolis reminded that Greece’s DEPA is developing plans for the East-Med gas pipeline, which is supported by the European Union, and would have a capacity of 8-10 billion cubic metres.

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Co-founder / Director of Energy & Climate Policy and Security at NE Global Media

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