Will the Caspian's status change the energy equation? - ERDAL TANAS KARAGÖL

Will the Caspian's status change the energy equation?

Turkey is fast becoming the Caspian region's energy hub. For this reason, it needs to consider all the energy dynamics in the region. One of these energy dynamics is the Caspian Sea region.

Like energy resources in the Mediterranean and Middle East being carried through Turkey to international markets, the energy transfer starting from the Caspian region that will go through Turkey will soon become a top priority.

Energy Equation in the Caspian in the Status Problem Dilemma

The “Energy Equation in the Caspian in the Status Problem Dilemma” analysis we prepared as the SETA Foundation is a significant study. It reveals the changes both Turkey's presence in the Caspian and the discussions on the Caspian's status will lead to in the region.

It first needs to be noted that there is currently no common naming on the area considered the “Caspian Region.” Discussions on whether the Caspian is a lake or sea are continuing. Whether the Caspian is the Caspian Sea or Caspian Lake will determine the order of power in energy of countries claiming rights in this region.

The countries that have a coast on the Caspian are Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Iran and Russia. With its 3 trillion cubic meters of natural gas reserves, approximately one-quarter of the total energy reserves in the Caspian region belong to Russia. Russia is followed by Kazakhstan, with 2.9-trillion-cubic-meter reserves and Azerbaijan with 1.4-trillion-cubic-meter reserves. Azerbaijan ranks third in reserves despite having the shortest coastal strip to the Caspian region.

When we look at the quinary equation, it is clear that every country would want to have a presence in the Caspian. The desire to open to global energy markets, the effort to be a fixed variable in the energy equation, is related to the Caspian's status. Hence, a change that will occur through determining status in the Caspian region will change the energy equation in the region.

Why is the Caspian region important for Turkey?

In addition to the five actors, Turkey will be carrying Caspian energy. It will also be directly affected by the status determination of the Caspian. Turkey's presence in Caspian energy began with the Trans-Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP). TANAP, the project to carry Azerbaijan's natural gas in the Caspian region to Turkey, then through Turkey to Europe, is progressing fast.

TANAP's presence represents Turkey's presence in the Caspian. Hence, the energy from the Caspian following TANAP will be Turkey's in different projects. At a time when energy supply security is especially alarming for EU countries, the significance of the Caspian region is increasing for EU countries as much as for Turkey.

Taking into consideration that we currently get the bulk of our natural gas from Russia, Iran and Azerbaijan, only Azerbaijan's natural gas comes from the Caspian region. In other words, Turkey's direct relationship with Caspian region countries is through Azerbaijan alone.

Hence, projects to be implemented for the Caspian region will be a serious alternative to Russia both in Europe and Turkey's energy supply security. Especially when Russia's recent policies and energy-related moves are taken into consideration.

All countries want to increase their natural gas potential in the Caspian, and the effect force of this potential. Turkmenistan, which ranks fourth in the Caspian's energy ranking, is also one of the countries that wants to use its energy power more effectively

Therefore, Turkmenistan's energy move closely concerns Turkey. Turkey's Trans-Caspian Pipeline Project, which Turkey wanted to start in the past but has yet to launch, foresees the flow of 30 billion cubic meters of Turkmenistan's natural gas per year to Turkey. Passing through Turkey to EU countries, this is another large-scale project that will change the region's balance. Also, with the Trans-Caspian Pipeline Project, Turkmenistan will reduce its high dependency on China, its biggest natural gas buyer, and will no longer need to go back and forth between Russia and Iran.

This is exactly why the Caspian region, one of the factors to determine how the energy equation will be formed, is important. Taking into consideration that energy is used as political and economic power, the ways in which the energy-producing countries will take place in the energy equation gains significance.



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