'Nabucco-South Stream Marriage possible'

Turkey is trying to establish a central role for itself on the global energy strategy stage by making Anatolia a corridor for energy transportation with grand projects.

'Nabucco-South Stream Marriage possible'

Turkey is trying to establish a central role for itself on the global energy strategy stage by making Anatolia a corridor for energy transportation with grand projects such as the Nabucco, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan and Samsun-Ceyhan pipelines, while Russia is developing alternative projects.

Turkish Energy Minister Hilmi Güler, however, doesn't perceive these actions by the two countries as rival moves; rather, he defines Russia's South Stream project as complementary to the European Union and US-backed Nabucco, saying that a partnership with Russia is always a possibility.

The minister denied the existence of rivalry with Moscow, noting that every project has its own focus, customers and target markets. The presence of alternative pipelines is an advantage, he said. "We do not intend to be rivals of anyone while developing our projects, and they are all open to everyone. I have already offered partnership to Russia on many projects, considering the advantages of such a partnership. But these all depend on economic factors, feasibility and the conditions of the region. We are always in communication with Russia and have discussed many projects. Our relations are very good," he noted.

Russian Federation President Vladimir Putin recently scorned the Nabucco project, which aims to build a natural gas pipeline linking the Caspian Sea region with Europe, saying Russia's alternative plans are more profitable. Nabucco is still in its initial planning phases. The project, which was devised as a means to diversify gas supplies and reduce energy dependence on Russia, aims to deliver 30 billion cubic meters (bcm) of gas from Central Asia and the Caspian region to Europe through a 3,300-kilometer pipeline from Turkey through Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary to Austria.

Güler was speaking about Turkey's energy policies and the activities of his ministry in a sector-specific meeting on energy as a part of Zaman daily's "Common Mind Meeting." The meeting convened last Friday at Zaman's headquarters in İstanbul. Chairman of the Oil Industry Association (PETDER) and Petrol Ofisi General Manager Melih Türker, PETDER Secretary-General Erol Metin, İstanbul Technical University Energy Institute Manager Dr. Abdurrahman Satman, Observatoire Méditerranéen de l'Energie Director Sohbet Karbuz, Electricity Generators Chairman Önder Karaduman, Union of Natural Gas Distribution Companies (GAZBİR) President Mehmet Kazancı, Enerco Chairman Fatih Baltacı and head of the Sabancı Holding Energy Group Selahattin Hakman were among participants.

The EU and the United States are strong supporters of the Nabucco pipeline. The project, however, has been slowed by high costs and uncertainty over sources of supply. Moscow dealt a heavy blow to Nabucco last fall after reaching a deal with Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan for those countries' Caspian Sea gas supplies to flow through Russia, draining the main potential source for the EU-backed pipeline.

Last month, during a visit to Moscow, Foreign Minister Ali Babacan said Turkey was open to including Russian gas in Nabucco. "Every country is aiming at diversifying its energy resources. What actually matters for us is having the gas in the Nabucco pipeline come from a variety of sources. We consider our policies on these issues not as competing with those of Russia; on the contrary we consider these policies as complementary to each other," Babacan said.

Güler said at the meeting that his primary objective was making energy issues easily understandable by everyone and teaching the significance of energy production and conservation. He noted that their second most important task is to adopt policies that lower energy prices, reduce dependence on foreign energy resources and make productivity of the Turkish energy sector a core value. Güler stated that as a part of this policy, they have attempted to capitalize on the strategic position at the intersection of two continents by implementing projects like Nabucco and the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline.

"It was hard to effect these projects due to a great many technical, legal and diplomatic hurdles, but we have undertaken risks to complete these great projects, each of which represents a major step in terms of making Turkey an energy hub," the minister stated. In addition, he noted, the energy business in Turkey has witnessed a tremendous wave of transformation with the exploration of renewable energy potential, better utilization of rivers and geothermal resources in energy generation, the prospecting of more coal deposits and exploring for new oil and gas reserves. The minister said in the past there were only a few companies that came to mind when talking about energy in Turkey, but now hundreds of newcomers have formed a sizeable business, creating employment for tens of thousands of people across the country. "Turkey is now witnessing a considerable transformation in its energy market," Güler said.

The minister also talked briefly about global energy supply security and the role Turkey plays in this. Turkey is at a critical position between the world's major energy consumers in Europe and energy-producing centers of the Middle East, Caspian Basin and Russia, the minister noted, adding that this presents a significant opportunity. "As of 2006, Europe consumed 5.5 billion barrels of oil and 470 bcm of natural gas in one year. We have 70 percent of the world's energy stocks to the east of us, whereas the consumers are to the west," he said.

Güler further emphasized that every risk is adding between $15 and $20 to the price of oil per barrel, a figure that underlines the importance of providing a secure route for energy transportation. All in all, the minister noted that Turkey's emergence as a corridor for oil and gas transportation and its increasing emphasis on regional integration and cooperation are raising the country to a key position in energy.

The minister also recalled a deal for a gas pipeline to bring gas from Egypt to Turkey through Iraq and Syria. "We are also planning to take this gas to Europe through Nabucco, and this is very important for the progress of Iraq's economy and the stability of the region. Our aim is not just economic here. We also want to provide peace because our state traditions prevent us from adopting a merely economic perspective in our relations with our neighbors," he said

Regarding the ministry's management of Iran's winter gas flow cuts, Güler praised his ministry's performance and said: "Iran cut the gas flow for 34 days this year, but thanks to our timely measures, no problem occurred in the country. There are four major criteria in determining the success of an energy ministry: Is there enough electricity, natural gas, gas and coal in a country." He said his energy ministry had so far succeeded in all these points.

Güler also talked about the ministry's recent attempts to explore new coal mines and noted the discovery of 2.4 billion tons of coal reserves across Turkey. He said the budget of the Mineral Exploration Institute (MTA) has increased tenfold and that the Turkish Petroleum Corporation's (TPAO) budget has increased by a factor of seven. For these studies 17,000 people were employed for the first time and 50,000 workers were insured in Soma alone. Also, coal drilling costs were decreased by more than one-eighth and production increased 2,000 percent.

The minister in addition emphasized the importance of energy-saving policies. He said he had always urged people to be more conscious of energy consumption issues. He mentioned the effectiveness of energy-efficient light bulbs, which provide the same light as a normal bulb but consume five times less electricity. Despite their advantages, Turks simply don't like to use these bulbs, as they are much more expensive than normal light bulbs, but the minister insisted that such energy-efficient materials will pay off in the long term by lowering electricity bills. He estimates that if everyone were to use these bulbs, Turkey would save around 2,500 megawatts of electricity every year, close to the amount of electricity generated by the Keban Dam, which boasts the second biggest hydroelectric power plant in Turkey.

Today's Zaman

Last Mod: 21 Mart 2008, 16:40
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