(Bloomberg) -- Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will use talks with the presidents of Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan next week to revive an idea of bringing Turkmen natural gas via his country to Europe, senior Turkish officials said, but any solution would likely take years to implement.
The idea would be to carry the gas on ships to Azerbaijan and then pump it into the Southern Gas Corridor chain of pipelines connecting Azerbaijan with Europe via Georgia and Turkey, said the officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
It was not immediately clear when shipments would start to arrive under the proposed plan, or how technically feasible such an idea was in the short-term. Discussions on alternative routes for Turkmen gas that would avoid Russia have taken place previously, with little success. But the invasion of Ukraine and the ripple effect on energy markets has resurfaced many ideas for energy transport routes that had previously been considered unlikely.
Turkey is working to become a key energy transit route, thanks to its strategic location straddling Europe and Asia and controlling access to the Black Sea. It wants to use energy projects to strengthen economic and diplomatic ties. A decision has already been made to double the capacity of the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline (TANAP) to 32 billion cubic meters.
The European Union is grappling with a cut in natural gas supply from Russia that has triggered a jump in energy prices.
Erdogan will meet Turkmen President Serdar Berdimuhamedov and Azeri President Ilham Aliev in the Caspian resort town of Awaza on Dec. 14.
While Azerbaijan is already pumping gas to Europe, helping plug in gaps left by curtailed Russian flows, Turkmenistan’s vast resources remain largely untapped. The nation has been unable to send them to Europe amid lack of agreements to ship it across the Caspian Sea by pipeline.
Turkmenistan ships almost a third of the gas it produces to China, with the rest consumed domestically and delivered to Russia, according to BP Plc’s Statistical Review of World Energy. Turkmenistan’s proved gas reserves are almost a third of Russia’s, at 13.6 trillion cubic meters as of the end of 2020, according to BP.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has said Turkey should become a new gas hub to ship the fuel to Europe. But European officials have rejected the idea, however, accusing Putin of using its energy supplies as a weapon in its invasion of Ukraine. Russia is seeking new markets having cut off supplies to most of western Europe, once its largest buyer.
“Our aim is to become a gas trade center where a reference gas price is set,” Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said Thursday.
Turkey has condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but not joined western sanctions against Moscow. It has welcomed Russian companies, investment and tourists into Turkey since the invasion. On Friday, Turkey is hosting talks with a Russian delegation in Ankara to seek discount of more than 25% for the price of its gas imports from Russia, Bloomberg reported Thursday.
--With assistance from Anna Shiryaevskaya.
(Adds details on pipelines, paragraph 2)
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