Turkey could expand drilling in eastern Mediterranean, says energy minister

Turkey may carry out fresh drilling in the eastern Mediterranean, Energy Minister Fatih Dönmez said on Monday, in a move that could increase tensions with Greece and Cyprus.

Turkey has already opened eight boreholes in the region, Hürriyet newspaper cited Dönmez as saying, noting that while there were signs of natural gas, no economically significant discovery had been made.

Tensions soared between Turkey and Greece and Cyprus over hyrdocarbon resources and jurisdiction in the eastern Mediterranean in August, when both Turkish and Greek navy frigates escorted exploration vessels in the disputed waters.

“Our experts are checking data after each drill with the seismic data obtained previously. We could have several more drills close to the ones (boreholes) where we see signs of gas,” the minister said. “Time will tell, but we are hopeful. We evaluate that there is a potential.” 

Turkey and EU members Greece and Cyprus have long disagreed on overlapping claims on hydrocarbon resources in the region, with both sides holding conflicting views of how far their continental shelves extend in the waters.

EU leaders in March warned Ankara to expect sanctions if it resumes energy exploration in the disputed waters.

Meanwhile, Turkey expects delivery from a natural gas reserve in the Black Sea, Turkey’s largest historical discovery, to begin in 2023.

The August discovery of 320 billion cubic metres of natural gas reserves, has been heralded by Ankara as being crucial in decreasing the country’s energy import dependency, which totalled  $41 billion last year.