Gas deals expected soon

ANKARA – Turkey’s state natural gas and pipeline concern Botas may buy a stake in an Azeri natural gas field project from a Russian-Italian joint venture, a senior Botas official said yesterday. Russia’s top oil firm Lukoil said last week it was studying a proposal from its partner, Italy’s Agip, to sell stakes in the Shakh Deniz gas project in which the joint venture holds 10 percent. The Shakh Deniz gas field is operated by a group led by BP. A multibillion-dollar gas pipeline, planned to link the field to Turkey, has been postponed due to concerns over Turkey’s gas balance. «We have enough cash to buy a stake in the sponsor group. We are evaluating all possible opportunities should Lukoil fail to sell the stake,» Botas General Manager Gokhan Bildaci told Reuters. The Shakh Deniz group also includes Norwegian Statoil, French TotalFinaElf and Turkish state petroleum company TPAO, which has a 9 percent stake. Azeri state oil company Socar, also a member of the developing group, recently said deliveries from Shahk Deniz to Turkey set for 2004 would be postponed to the year 2006. Turkey, criticized for oversupply in its gas contracts, has recently reduced its take-or-pay risk through price cuts it has secured from Russia and Iran. Botas also halved the planned volume of gas supplied via the new Blue Stream pipeline, to come onstream in December, to 2 billion cubic meters in 2003. Bildaci said Turkey would resume natural gas imports from Iran immediately after both parties had approved a revised version of the natural gas contract. «The last version of the contract has arrived. After it has been approved by the Botas board this week, we will immediately turn on the valve,» he said. Turkey said it halted gas imports from Iran in June because of quality concerns. However, Iran claimed the stoppage was due to Turkey’s economic woes which cut natural gas demand last year following its worst economic crisis since 1945. Greek sale agreement Botas has been conducting talks with Greece and is set to sign a gas sale agreement once parties agreed on prices, Bildaci said. «We agreed on the international agreement but could not reach a deal on prices. Once it’s over, we will sign the gas-selling deal,» Bildaci said. Turkey and Greece signed a memorandum of understanding in March to build a $300-million natural gas pipeline to carry Caspian Sea gas to Europe. The plan envisages use of Turkey’s existing gas grid plus building a 285-kilometer (177-mile) stretch to pump 500 million cubic meters of gas to Greece from 2005.

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