Liquefied natural gas could be a game changer for Turkey

Turkey is increasingly turning to liquefied natural gas (LNG), diversifying its external energy links and boosting its leverage over Russia, an analyst said in an article published on the Middle East Institute’s (MEI) website on Friday.  

Russia’s dominance in the natural gas markets to its southwest no longer appears unassailable as dramatic changes are taking place in Turkey - Moscow’s top gas customer outside of Germany - Dimitar Bechev, a non-resident fellow with MEI's Frontier Europe Initiative, said. 

Bechev said Turkey’s Energy Market Regulatory Authority (EMRA) recorded the import of 2.06 billion cubic metres (bcm) of LNG for last March - outstripping pipeline gas and reaching 52 percent of total volumes received by Turkey. 

The share of LNG in imports stood at 29 percent in 2019.

Bechev said the rise of LNG is bad news for Moscow, as Russian energy giant Gazprom had traditionally supplied more than half of the gas entering Turkey. Yet its share plunged from 52 percent in 2017 to 47 percent in 2018 to just 33 percent in 2019.  

Turkish industries and households rely less and less on Russian gas, even as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin are talking up ambitious energy ventures, such as the recently inaugurated TurkStream pipeline

“Cheaper gas for Turkey means extra leverage in negotiations with Russia,” Bechev said. He added that Ankara will surely try to extract better terms on gas contracts from the Russia.

“In a nutshell, Turkey is moving forward with diversifying external energy links and its boosting its leverage. Evening the playing field with Russia, to the extent that is possible, works in Ankara’s favour too, given the complexity of the relationship,” he said.

However, Bechev said that might not be enough for Turkey to realise its ambition of becoming a regional energy power as its stagnant economy has depressed demand for hydrocarbon imports and due to a looming recession caused by the COVID-19 coronavirus.