Turkey discovers large natural gas reserve off Black Sea

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaks during the inauguration of a solar technologies plant, outside Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday, Aug. 19, 2020. Erdogan said that Turkey will defend its rights in the eastern Mediterranean until the end, but Ankara wants Greece to take steps paving the way for dialogue.(Turkish Presidency via AP, Pool)

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced the discovery of a large natural gas reserves off the Black Sea coast, days after he promised “good news” that would usher in a “new era” for the energy dependent country.

Erdogan said Friday that the amount of gas discovered is 320 billion cubic meters, adding that he hopes to start extracting and using the gas by 2023.

If confirmed as recoverable resources, the reserves could ease the country’s dependence on costly energy imports and could ease the financial market jitters that have seen the country’s currency plummet to record lows this summer.

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. The sector is near where Romania has also found gas reserves.

The discovery comes as tensions between NATO allies 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 Aug. 23.

Separately, Turkey is also at odd with Cyprus over energy exploration around the island. It has dispatched warship-escorted vessels off Cyprus’s coast to drill for gas, insisting that it’s acting to protect its interests and those of Turkish Cypriots to the area’s natural resources. The Greek Cypriot government of the ethnically split island has slammed Turkey for encroaching in its waters and economic rights.

The discovery of the natural gas reserve would come as a welcome respite for the country which is dependent on Iran, Iraq and Russia for its energy and is grappling with economic woes. Last year, energy imports cost the country $41 billion.

The Turkish lira has tumbled to record lows this months, fueled by high inflation, a wide current account deficit and the Turkish government’s push for cheap credit to drive an economy that was already fragile before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The currency however, recovered some losses following reports of the discovery of gas deposits.


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