Turkey’s gas imports shift away from Russia, toward U.S.

Turkey’s natural gas imports from Russia fell 36 percent in the first half of 2019, while liquid natural gas (LNG) from the United States leapt more than four-fold, making Turkey the second biggest importer of U.S. LNG in Europe and Central Asia.

“Almost a tectonic shift in Turkey’s energy outlook,” Çağatay Özdemir, a consultant in global macroeconomics and market research for the World Bank’s private sector arm, tweeted on Tuesday in response to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency. 

Turkey’s total gas imports fell 10 percent in the first half of 2019 in comparison to the previous year, while imports via pipeline dropped 18 percent, according to data from Turkey's Energy Market Regulatory Authority. The decline resulted from reduced demand from gas-fired power plants, as renewable power production peaked in early 2019, said Anadolu. 

Russia’s share in Turkey’s total gas imports has fallen from nearly half (48 percent) in the first half of 2018, to just more than a third this year (34 percent), though this share is expected to increase when the Turkish Stream pipeline linking Russia and Turkey via the Black Sea goes online in the coming months.  

Turkey’s LNG imports increased more than 14 percent in January-June 2019 to a record high of 7.14 billion cubic meters (bcm), as the share of LNG in Turkey’s gas imports passed 30 percent in the first half of the year for the first time, according to Anadolu.

U.S. imports led the way, jumping from .191 bcm in early 2018 to .884 bcm this year, a 463 percent increase. Across all of Europe and Central Asia, only Spain imported more U.S. LNG in early 2019, according to Anadolu.

“If tendency would continue,” Madalina Vicari, energy markets analyst and PhD candidate at the University of Liège, tweeted on Tuesday, “then important shift in Turkey's energy policy.”

Algeria (2.94 bcm) and Qatar (1.26 bcm) remained the biggest LNG exporters to Turkey. Turkey’s imports from U.S. foes Russia and Iran (5 percent) fell in the first half of 2019, as did those from Qatar (down 34 percent), which Ankara has been supporting since its Gulf neighbors imposed a blockade in mid-2017.

Azerbaijani gas exports to Turkey increased 38 percent in January-June 2019, largely thanks to inflows from the new Trans Anatolian Natural Gas Pipeline Project (TANAP), said Anadolu. 

The TurkStream pipeline, which is set to go online by the end of the year, is expected to significantly increase Turkey’s daily volume of gas imports.