Fossil gas: Turkey reaches out to Bulgaria and aspires to become an energy hub

On January 3, 2023, Bulgaria and Turkey signed an agreement allowing the Bulgarian gas operator access to Turkish terminals and transit networks. The deal should make it easier for Bulgaria to diversify its gas sources and prevent it from turning to Russia again, as the transitional government demanded at the end of August. Ankara, on the other hand, has declared that the gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean Sea are increasing and, in the words of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, it dreams of becoming “the energy center of the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.” “.

Before the Russian occupation of Ukraine, Bulgaria was supplied with natural gas almost exclusively from Moscow: Gazprom supplied Bulgaria with 2.55 billion m³ of gas annually, i.e. 85% of its total consumption (3 billion m³).

Bulgaria will be cut off from Russian gas from April 2022

However, in April 2022, under the influence of the staunchly pro-European Prime Minister Kirill Petkov, Bulgaria refuses to pay for Russian gas in rubles and finds itself deprived of a valuable resource.

Since then, the country has been trying to diversify its gas supply. The opening of the IGB gas connection, which will be completed by forced march in July 2022, allows Bulgaria to connect to Greece, its LNG terminals and, above all, the Tanap/Tap gas pipeline used to transport Western Azerbaijan. gas.

The capacity of IGB is exactly 3 billion m³, and the country has already signed a contract for the supply of 1 billion m³ of Azerbaijani gas. However, Bulgaria remains extremely vulnerable and has to pay for LNG or gas supplied by its European neighbors at a (very) high price.

The transitional government of Bulgaria opens the door of “Gazprom”.

Moreover, at the end of June 2022, Kiril Petkov’s government is forced to resign. Until the elections to be held in October 2020, the President of the Republic appoints a transitional government. And the energy minister of the latter, Rossen Hristov, openly starts negotiations with “Gazprom” to supply itself with Russian gas again.

Admittedly, the final decision must be made by the new government, but this hand reaching out to Moscow is shocking. Since then, the stalwart Boiko Borisov (who was in power for most of Bulgaria’s governments between 2009 and 2021) and his fairly pro-Russian center-right GERB party won the October 2022 elections.

Is the government not formed in Bulgaria before the new elections?

However, he could not build a coalition with a majority of seats in the parliament, he could not form a government. The Bulgarian president therefore tasked Nikolay Denkov, a member of Kirill Petkov’s pro-European reformist party, to try to form a government.

He could only achieve this by creating an impossible coalition in Bulgaria with a left-wing, center-right party and a party of Turks and Muslims. Therefore, the most likely hypothesis is the holding of new elections (the fifth in two and a half years). Therefore, it is impossible to know what the outcome of the negotiations with Gazprom will be.

Agreement between Bulgaria and Turkey on the use of Turkish gas infrastructure

Meanwhile, it is Turkey that Bulgaria is approaching on the gas front. On January 3, 2023, Bulgaria’s public gas operator Bulgargaz thus signed an agreement with Turkey’s public gas company Botaş, allowing it to gain access to Turkey’s gas terminals and transit networks, thus “enhancing security of supply in the Balkan region.

“Thus, we will be able to buy gas from all international producers and load it in Turkey, where the logistics will be the most suitable for us,” said Rossen Hristov, Bulgaria’s interim energy minister.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez noted that the contract will be valid for the next 13 years and may cover up to 1.5 billion m³ of LNG transported annually, that is, half of Bulgaria’s consumption. What can be done without Russian gas? Can be.

Turkey wants to be a major regional player

On the Turkish side, this agreement is part of the desire to turn the country into an important energy center and thus strengthen its regional power.

Provocations against Cyprus and Greece regarding gas drilling have been stopped in the Eastern Mediterranean, Negotiations with Israel to transport the Jewish state’s gas to Europeeven Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s desire to mediate in the war between Ukraine and Russia: Turkey wants to be a major player in this border zone between Europe, Asia and the Middle East.

Turkey increases the assessment of gas reserves in the eastern Mediterranean by a third

The gas discovered in the Eastern Mediterranean can be the energy arm of this great geopolitical will. Rather, at the very end of 2022, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced that Turkey’s offshore gas reserves are one-third higher than previously expected.

The president mentioned the evaluation work of the international energy company, which he did not name, and which will revise the reserves of the Sakarya field upwards (to 652 billion m³ against the previous 540 billion m³) and discovered a new offshore field nearby. , estimated reserves of 58 billion m³. That is, a total of 710 billion m³ against 540 billion before this announcement.

Erdogan wants to make Turkey “the energy center of the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East.”

“This new discovery will open the door to new ones. We will start drilling new wells as soon as possible,” said the Turkish president. Above all, he clearly insisted on his regional ambitions.

“We are determined to make Turkey the energy center of the Caspian Sea, the Mediterranean Sea and the Middle East. We will connect the east and the west not only with our bridges (…), but also with energy bridges,” he confirmed.

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