Europe’s War of Gas Supply: Russia Wouldn’t Give Europe Gas For Free
Pipelines and storage facilities are swiftly becoming the preferred option to address Europe’s growing gas security concerns. While the Nord Stream 2 pipeline is already under construction, there are other major pipeline projects that are still in the planning stages. The most prominent among them is TurkStream, a Turkish Stream pipeline project that will carry Russian gas directly to Turkey. If built, this $20 billion project will increase Turkey’s gas security and decrease reliance on Russia. This article examines the political, economic and security implications of the project and provides a brief outlook of its future.
What Is the TurkStream Pipeline?
The Turkish Stream is a series of interconnector pipelines that will carry natural gas from Russia to Turkey. It has been in the pipeline since 2013, when it was announced that Gazprom would build a pipeline that would run parallel to the existing South Stream pipeline and connect to Turkish and Greek shores. This two-line pipeline would have a capacity of 32 billion cubic meters – or about 10% of Europe’s total gas consumption in 2017. The line will run parallel to the existing southern route, with the goal of increasing gas supply and reducing reliance on Russia.
Construction of the Turkish Stream started in 2015 and is expected to be completed by the end of the year. The pipeline is scheduled to begin operations in 2019, to be fully online by the end of 2020.
Benefits of TurkStream
The proposed capacity of the Turkish Stream is almost double that of the existing South Stream, which was already more than enough to meet the gas demands of Europe. Its direct route will reduce the transportation time of Russian natural gas to Turkey by about half. This will give Europe more time to secure alternate supplies in the event of a supply disruption, and it will also make the transportation of natural gas from Russia to Turkey cheaper for Turkish citizens and more attractive for Turkish companies. In addition, the delivery method will be more reliable and secure due to the presence of an interconnector that can shut off the supply in the event of a crisis.
In addition to its own advantages, the Turkish Stream has access to additional sources of gas supply. As the southern branch of the South Stream, the Turkish Stream can tap into the Balkan gas pipeline system, which is jointly owned by several European energy companies. The planned extension of the Turkish Stream pipeline will also connect to the planned Trans-Adriatic Pipeline, which will bring natural gas from Azerbaijan to Europe via Greece and Albania. This will increase the overall gas supply capacity of the Turkish Stream and help to address future European gas security concerns.
The Road to TurkStream
Construction on the pipeline started in 2015, but the project has been in the planning stages for much longer than that. After South Stream and Nabucco pipeline projects were canceled, Turkey and Russia turned to the Turkish Stream as an alternative option to bring more gas to Europe. South Stream and Nabucco were meant to facilitate gas supply from Russia to Europe, but the Turkish Stream is a fully reversible pipeline that will bring gas back to Turkey when needed.
The construction of the Turkish Stream is part of a larger trend of diversifying energy supplies for Europe. The EU is looking to increase its energy security by diversifying its energy supplier portfolio and moving away from overly dependance on any single supplier. Other major pipeline projects under consideration in Europe include the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, Southern Gas Corridor and Trans-Adriatic Pipeline.
Security Concerns of TurkStream
Turkey has been in a state of political and military turmoil since a failed coup attempt in July 2016. The coup attempt, which was organized by a group of Turkish military officers, horrified Europeans, who saw it as another example of the fragility of Turkey’s democracy and the need to protect civil liberties and human rights in Turkey. The coup attempt also highlighted the deep political and security fractures in Turkey and the country’s instability.
These security concerns have led several European countries to backtrack on promises to facilitate the Turkish Stream. Earlier this year, the Netherlands said it would no longer support the construction of the pipeline, citing security concerns. The Czech Republic, Germany and France also suspended their support for the project after the failed coup attempt. Although the Netherlands later said it would reconsider its decision, the Turkish Stream is still facing significant opposition in Europe.
Political Implications of TurkStream
By bypassing Russia, the Turkish Stream will significantly decrease Turkey’s dependence on Russia. Turkey has been accused of collusion with Russia in the past, most notably in its support for the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria. The Turkish Stream will help to reduce this dependence and will also make it harder for Turkey to justify military intervention in Syria.
Economic Implications of TurkStream
According to European Commission estimates, the construction of the Turkish Stream will create some 2,900 jobs during the construction phase and result in the creation of around 8,000 indirect jobs. The pipeline is expected to provide a long-term boost to the Turkish economy, which will benefit from the increase in gas trade with Europe.
The construction of the Turkish Stream is another sign of Europe’s growing dependency on foreign suppliers of natural gas. The EU imported 52% of its total gas consumption in 2017 and is expected to increase reliance on foreign suppliers as more LNG terminals are completed. As the EU’s biggest supplier of natural gas, Russia has been a major driver of this gas import dependency. The Turkish Stream will diversify gas supplies and reduce this dependence, but it will also increase competition among gas providers. Consumers will have to be mindful of how they navigate a potentially crowded gas market, with multiple suppliers and multiple competing pipeline projects.