ECONOMY

Gazprom’s reliance on exports via Turkey may hurt its interests

Russian natural gas company Gazprom’s dependence on the Turkish gas export market could be a double-edged sword if Turkey manages to act as a bridge for central Asian gas as it plans, according to new research, Lloyd’s List reports. On the one hand, the Russian major Gazprom stands to benefit from Turkey’s ambitious plans to increase its supply. But, on the other, if Turkey’s scheme to release stranded Central Asian gas reserves is successful, Gazprom may loose a chunk of the lucrative growing European import market to the central Asian newcomer, warn analysts with Russian independent bank United Financial Group (UFG). Gazprom has, in recent years, been heavily dependent on gas exports to Europe. Though domestic concerns and a lack of significant reforms continue to dominate the Russian market, these European exports will continue to be vital to Gazprom. Russia at present supplies 14 billion cubic meters of gas per annum to Turkey under two contracts and Turkey has contracted additional volumes, beginning this year and climbing to 16 billion cubic meters per annum until 2025, through a project called Blue Stream. UFG feels that, despite a 10-percent growth in domestic Turkish gas demand in 2001, there remains a «considerable volume of gas which will be surplus to Turkey’s domestic requirements.» Proving Turkey’s desire to act as a bridge between central Asia and Europe, the nation has been exploring transportation avenues. It has been studying gas export pipelines from Turkey through Bulgaria and Greece to Europe, as well as a liquified natural gas (LNG) export option to supply cargoes to North America and the Far East. «While the pipeline option to Europe appears feasible because the European gas infrastructure is in place, LNG exports appear far-fetched in our view,» says UFG. «It is difficult to envisage a commercially attractive project which would transport gas from Iran or Central Asia, liquify it on the Turkish coast and then send it by LNG tanker to the USA or the Far East.» «The European pipeline option is therefore a more likely option for Turkey to employ, in particular because the EU sees Turkey as a potential alternative supply route to Europe for gas.» Indeed, a memorandum of understanding has already been signed between Turkey and Greece to connect the two countries’ gas systems by 2004. With Turkey potentially becoming Gazprom’s second largest market after Germany, Turkey’s plans are of great interest. «When the Blue Stream pipeline under the Black Sea to Turkey goes into full use, Gazprom will be Turkey’s largest gas supplier, keen to keep the country happy,» says UFG. «However, more important for Gazprom is the whole European gas market, which is itself in a state of flux as it heads towards liberalization.» «Certainly European gas demand is set to rise and certainly the EU has expressed a desire to double its gas purchases from Russia over the next few years. However, increasing supply – particularly from new suppliers to the market – is yet another instability inducing factor to a market already nervously eyeing the future.» But perceived security of supplies will not be enough to stop Turkey’s moves from affecting Gazprom, and Russia will certainly be keeping a keen eye on Turkey over the coming months. «The very development of the gas business in Turkey, while in one sense is an opportunity for Gazprom, is also potentially a threat because of the infrastructure being created and the ability that it gives otherwise stranded central Asian gas to target the large and profitable European market.» (Reuters) The State’s principal objective is to increase the country’s economic competitiveness, considered the principal factor which will determine Greece’s real convergence with the EU. Boosting Greek competitiveness is a constant battle. There is no room to let down our guard as other countries have the same goal.