Turkey's Erdogan announces massive Black Sea gas discovery

Recep Tayyip Erdogan says natural gas reserve is 320 billion cubic metres

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Turkey has announced a significant gas discovery in the Black Sea.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the natural gas reserve is 320 billion cubic metres and the find is the biggest in Turkish history.

Turkey aims to bring it to use in 2023 and to become a net energy exporter, he said in an address.

Mr Erdogan said it would usher in a new era as he vowed to step up the search for energy despite tensions in the region.

"We are going to speed up our operations in the Mediterranean with the deployment by the end of the year of the Kanuni (drilling ship), which is currently in maintenance," he said.

Turkey has traditionally been reliant on costly energy imports.

"As a country that depended on the outside for gas for years, we look to the future with more security now," Mr Erdogan said.

"There will be no stopping until we become a net exporter in energy."

But experts have cautioned that it could take up to a decade for gas from the Black Sea find to come online, and would need billions of dollars of investment to build up the infrastructure for production and supply.

Any reduction in Turkey's energy import bill, which stood at $41 billion (Dh150.59bn) last year, would boost government finances and help ease a chronic current account deficit which has helped drive the lira to record lows against the dollar.

The Turkish drilling ship, Fatih, had been carrying out exploration operations in the Tuna-1 sector in the western Black Sea for the past month.

Turkish Energy Minister Fatih Donmez said on Friday that the operation of the recently discovered field will be handled by state-owned energy company TPAO.

"In the upcoming period, we will do the seismic research and drilling by ourselves...The operation will be completely handled by Turkiye Petrolleri," Mr Donmez said.

The energy minister added that there might be an international tender to build a pipeline to bring the natural gas to the shore.

epa08616184 (FILE) - The Turkish drilling vessel Fatih waits on the shores of Istanbul's Marmara sea in Istanbul, Turkey, 09 April 2020 (reissued 21 August 2020). Turkish Preisdent Erdogan on 21 August 2020 announced that Turkey discovered the biggest natural gas field in Turkish history in the Black Sea.  EPA/ERDEM SAHIN *** Local Caption *** 56014101
The Turkish drilling vessel Fatih waits on the shores of Istanbul's Marmara sea. EPA

The discovery comes as tensions between Nato members Turkey and Greece are running high over oil and gas exploration in disputed waters in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greek and Turkish warships have been shadowing each other after Turkey sent a research ship to look for potential undersea oil and gas deposits. The Turkish ship is scheduled to search for energy reserves there until August 23.

Turkey is also at odd with Cyprus over energy exploration around the island.