Another russian project? On the prospects and dangers of the creation of the Turkish hub

Any new russian gas projects should now cause mistrust and concern. Regardless of whether it is related to Ukraine, Turkey, or European countries. The situation with both Nord Streams has amply demonstrated that there is no such thing as a “reliable partner” and “cheap gas. In the interpretation, which lays in the idea of creating a Turkish hub russia has risks both for Ukraine and for the EU countries. It is about russia’s attempts to return/expand its presence on the European market by building new subsea infrastructure. For Europe, this is fraught with the risk that the Kremlin will continue its attempts to split the EU by “gas pressure” on the EU East and South countries, which may be more vulnerable to it. Ukrainian diplomats should be careful to ensure that no new harmful projects are spawned in the EU and neighboring regions, which are now infrastructurally connected to Ukraine, under the slogan of providing oneself with one or another source of energy.

However, this does not mean that Turkey should postpone its plans for a gas hub. Instead of relying on the will of one supplier, it should simply be sought among a wide range of partners. One of the key prerequisites for the creation of a hub is access to various sources of gas supply. In this sense, Turkey has access to gas from russia, Azerbaijan, LNG, and gas from its production, so the potential is there. But the capabilities of the Turkish transit infrastructure are limited: only Turkish Stream and TANAP-TAP are available in the direction of Europe, which is already loaded. Access to the largest EU consumers – Germany, Italy, and Austria – is also complicated due to the limited capacities of the infrastructure in Bulgaria, Serbia, and Hungary. The gas storage infrastructure is also not sufficiently developed. On the whole, Turkey has the potential as a hub for the Mediterranean and the Black Sea regions, but this prospect is not unconditional and immediate and will require both expansion/adaptation of infrastructure and a certain liberalization of the market.

I would like to note that Ukraine has the necessary gas transport infrastructure, powerful underground storage facilities, and the relevant legislative framework. Furthermore, Turkey does not need to spend money on new gas pipelines to start supplying gas to European countries; it is enough to unblock the operation of the Trans-Balkan corridor. The reverse flow to Ukraine with subsequent use of Ukrainian gas pipelines to Slovakia or storage facilities is promising. As stated by the European Energy Community Secretariat in its report, the signing of the interconnection agreement between the Turkish and Bulgarian operators will benefit Turkey itself once its regional partners have access to LNG.

In turn, the Gas TSO of Ukraine together with the operators of the GTS of Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria are working to remove the last obstacles to the full-scale operation of the Trans -Balkan route. Its potential transit capacity is 20 billion cubic meters of gas per year. Progress has been made so far in introducing the possibility of virtual reverse (backhaul) at the border points with Moldova, and work continues on the regional settlement of the gas quality issue. The idea of independence from the RF hub in Turkey is promising and opens up great opportunities if there is regional cooperation. Right now, the goal is to strengthen Europe’s energy security, not to create new threats. In particular, the EU countries should not fall into the economic and political trap of being dependent on russian gas for the second time, no matter through whose intermediary it is supplied.