ANKARA: Following Iran’s decision to cut off gas flows to Turkey last week, Ankara began ordering gas-fired power plants to cut their gas consumption by 40% from Monday.
This sudden decision highlighted the need to diversify energy suppliers for the country. Households, schools and hospitals are, for the time being, exempt from the measures.
Iran’s natural gas consumption recently hit a record high of around 692 million cubic meters per day in households, commercial businesses and small industries, mainly due to harsh winter conditions, but the country cited a gas leak at a Turkish station for the disruption of exports to Turkey for up to 10 days.
Turkey is no exception to record daily gas consumption, which reached around 288 million cubic meters on January 19.
Turkey depends almost entirely on imported gas from Iran, Azerbaijan and Russia, while Iran alone supplied about 16% of the country’s natural gas needs last year.
The decision has worried several industry representatives because it does not discriminate against sectors with cold rooms or ovens.
“Such a gas cut means greater financial loss for some key sectors such as glass, medicine and ceramics factories as well as those producing meat and dairy products,” former Mehmet Ogutcu told Arab News. diplomat and currently chairman of the London Energy Club. .
The sectors that consume the most electricity, namely the steel industry and the garment industry, are expected to register high losses and suffer disruptions in export commitments.
“Production could be at risk if the disruption continues to grow in the coming days,” Ogutcu said.
“It will hurt the economy and industrial production, especially at a time when exports and production were accelerating.”
Businesses in industrial zones were notified of the three-day restriction on Friday and will only be allowed to use gas on designated days.
The prospect of power cuts at industrial sites is also on the horizon and could also affect households, even if gas prices have become discouraging for citizens, since they have increased by 25% for residential uses. and 50% for industrial uses in January.
Turkey’s domestic gas consumption rate has risen from 48 billion cubic meters to 60 billion in a year, while there are some 18 million natural gas subscribers across the country.
“I have repeatedly warned of a potential outage over the past six months. This has also happened in European countries,” Ogutcu said.
“Turkey should have taken the necessary measures beforehand when the first signs appeared.”
According to Ogutcu, Turkey should either reduce gas demand and simultaneously develop plans to increase energy efficiency, or develop alternative energy resources like liquefied natural gas.
Turkey imports LNG from the United States, Morocco, Qatar and Nigeria, but it is still much more expensive than natural gas imports for Ankara.
About a third of Turkey’s natural gas needs are currently met by LNG deliveries.
“There are ongoing projects in the Black Sea for gas discoveries with drilling tests. But it will take at least seven or eight years to reap the benefits of this project,” Ogutcu said.
Turkey’s 405 billion cubic meter gas discoveries in the Black Sea have been accepted as the world’s largest offshore gas discovery of 2020.
Similar gas supply cuts have occurred in the past, but have not resulted in industrial blackouts on such a large scale.
Experts stressed the need to learn from this latest crisis and design alternative energy sources.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recently announced that Turkey is still interested in transporting Israeli gas to Europe – a potential step in diversifying much-needed gas sources.
Last week, an explosion in the southeastern province of Maras led to another disruption in the flow of crude oil through the Kirkuk-Ceyhan pipeline.
“Over the past decade, Turkey has succeeded in further diversifying its energy sources with more energy suppliers, the increasing use of LNG and renewable energy,” said Gallia Lindenstrauss, senior researcher at the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel, at Arab News.
“The first unit of the nuclear power plant built by Rosatom in Akkuyu is expected to be operational in 2023 and Turkey has discovered gas reserves in the Black Sea which will be another future source of energy.”
According to Lindenstrauss, the problem today is less related to the question of diversification than to the sharp devaluation of the Turkish lira alongside rising energy prices, which translates into difficulties in purchasing LNG.
“Obviously, Turkey would also benefit if it could sign contracts to import gas, or be a transit route for gas, from the eastern Mediterranean, but that has not been possible until today, mainly for political reasons,” she said.
Even in the unlikely scenario where neighboring states overcome the hurdles that separate them, Lindenstrauss believes this is still only part of the solution to Turkey’s growing energy needs, and near-term energy shortage problems. will be a recurring problem from time to time.
This year, Turkey’s natural gas storage capacity reached 3.8 billion cubic meters.