Future of natural gas in East Mediterranean - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Future of natural gas in East Mediterranean

The East Mediterranean Reserve has, in recent years, through discoveries of natural gas shown its potential as a source and is starting to draw the attention of the world's leading energy companies and high energy demanding countries. Hence, we might well say that the energy sources discovered in the East Mediterranean signal hot days in the region in the new term.

However, from time to time, the countries in the region see internal conflicts, political disputes and problems. As a matter of fact, some of these problems are now no longer regional, but international problems instead. Of these, the Palestine issue, the Cyprus issue and Egypt's instability in the region are the most striking. Today, while these problems in the region are not yet solved, with the energy sources discovered, existing debates are increasingly ongoing.

Because, it is a fact that countries' diplomatic relations are affected by the energy issue. Hence, primarily due to the Cyprus issue, the security problem and Israel's wrong and problematic policies, the region is becoming even more chaotic.

In this aspect, for countries that have reserves in the region, energy has the potential to solve problems through cooperation and trade activities.

Alternative options for East Mediterranean natural gas

The way energy will be transferred to help solve the ongoing problems in the region is the most important agenda item. Looking at the projects that stand out in the region, the East Med (East Mediterranean Natural Gas Pipeline) Project led by Israel, Greece and the Southern Cyprus Greek Administration and which bypasses Turkey, stands out.

However, considering the project route, it is clear that this project is not rational. In fact, the project is kept on the agenda with the EU's help. However, the financing problem and the limited amount of reserves in the region are the most important obstacles preventing this route from materializing.

This is because the investment amount and the cost required for the planned project increases the price of East Mediterranean gas. Hence, EU countries that want both competition and the option to buy cheaper gas are turning to alternative routes in the region.

Other than East Med, there are three more routes to transfer East Mediterranean gas to outside markets. The first of these is the Israel-Turkey route that will be created with the pipeline planned to be built between Israel and Turkey. The second is the route that foresees gas transfer from Israel to Egypt and the third is the Southern Cyprus Greek Administration-Egypt route that will result from an agreement between the two countries.

Looking at the four alternative routes, taking into consideration the geographical position, it is clear that the Israel-Turkey route is more advantageous and realizable.

Turkey most important actor

The reality that Turkey is the most suitable route in providing the export of energy sources discovered in the East Mediterranean to Europe and other countries is accepted by all actors in the region. Also, Turkey, which wants to ensure source localization and demand security in oil and natural gas, is among the important actors in the equation of the region.

As Turkey is ensuring its own energy demand security by transferring Caspian region natural gas through TANAP, TurkStream and other planned major energy projects, it has also formed a reliable route for this gas to reach Europe.

The addition of East Mediterranean gas to the existing pipelines means that Turkey's corridor image can turn in to a natural gas trade center. This line will add southern gas to Turkey's natural gas flow from the east and north and Turkey will become a hub in natural gas trade.

Hence, both in terms of creating an alternative with East Mediterranean gas and by playing an active role in transferring this gas to Europe, Turkey will increasingly strengthen its profile in becoming a regional hub base in energy.



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