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Putin, Erdogan launch TurkStream to Turkey, Southern Europe

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Russia and Turkey launched the TurkStream gas pipeline on 8 January in a ceremony attended by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov and Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

TurkStream, which is laid in the Black Sea, is a link between the gas transmission systems of Russia and Turkey.

According to Russian gas monopoly Gazprom, the gas pipeline has two strings with a combined throughput capacity of 31.5 billion cubic metres. The first string will deliver gas to Turkey, while the second string is intended for gas transit to southern and southeastern Europe through Turkish territory.

The pipelaying for TurkStream took 15 months and was completed ahead of schedule in November 2018. The construction of the receiving terminal near the Kiyikoy settlement in Turkey was finished in 2019. The starting point for feeding gas into TurkStream is the Russkaya compressor station (CS), which forms part of Russia’s Unified Gas Supply System and is located near Anapa. With a capacity of 224 MW, the CS maintains the pressure required for transmitting gas along the pipeline’s two strings through more than 930 kilometres up to the Turkish coast where gas enters the receiving terminal.

“Both offshore lines are completed and have already started commercial gas deliveries, Sander van Rootselaar, deputy head of communications and spokesperson for the TurkStream Offshore Pipeline, which is developed by South Stream Transport BV, told New Europe on 7 January. “The capacity of the pipelines that is used is based on market developments, in case of the first line developments in the Turkish gas market,” he said, explaining that gas demand import has declined in Turkey since the peak of 55 billion cubic metres in 2017. “TurkStream is currently just starting up, but able to scale up fast if the market needs it,” van Rootselaar said. “We are feeding gas to both onshore lines, both the one that is directed to the Turkish market as the one directed to the European market,” he added.

The extending infrastructure in Turkey for the Turkish market is developed by BOTAŞ, the string to the Turkish-Bulgarian border by a joint venture of Gazprom and BOTAŞ. In Bulgaria by Bulgartransgaz and in Serbia by Transgas, a joint venture between Gazprom and Srbijagas. “Formally, our responsibility ends at the receiving terminal in Turkey. Other parties are involved in the onshore pipelines,” van Rootselaar said.

Russia started gas deliveries to Bulgaria, Greece and North Macedonia through the new entry point at Bulgaria’s Turkish border, replacing a route that formerly passed through Ukraine and Romania, Bulgaria’s Bulgartransgaz said 5 January.

The second string of TurkStream will extend from Bulgaria to Serbia and Hungary. Each of the involved countries in Southeast and Central Europe is responsible for their own extension of the pipeline. TurkStream will end in the EU, meaning Gazprom has no stake in the onshore gas infrastructure in EU countries, in line with the EU third energy package.

Asked if the gas transported via TurkStream is new Russian gas or gas transported via Trans-Balkan gas pipelines across Ukraine, van Rootselaar said, “TurkStream is a modern, more efficient and direct route to Turkey and countries in Southeastern Europe. Instead of crossing four countries, Turkey now receives gas directly. In terms of security of supply, that’s a significant asset.” He added that eventually, it is up to Gazprom to decide which infrastructure they use for their gas shipments.

Russia is building TurkStream and Nord Stream-2 across the Baltic Sea to Germany as part of plans to bypass Ukraine in its gas deliveries to Europe. The US has recently imposed sanctions that effect the offshore construction of Nord Stream-2 but will not impact TurkStream as the offshore pipelay campaign for TurkStream was already completed in November 2018. “The existing sanctions do not affect the pipeline as it is almost entirely overland and local resources can be used to compete each section,” Chris Weafer, founding partner of Macro-Advisory, a Moscow-based business and investment consulting group, told New Europe.

“Just as it is strange that the US Congress left it so late to sanction Nord Stream-2, it is equally strange that Brussels has ignored Turkish Stream 1 and 2. It is essentially the abandoned South Stream pipeline, against which Brussels was vehemently opposed,” Weafer said and quipped: “But they seemed satisfied that the project with that name has been killed and completely ignored the fact it was simply moved and renamed and now well underway. Without even a whimper from Brussels. Perhaps somebody finally understood the reality of what is required to meet Europe’s environment targets.”

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

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