Will Israel’s Natural Gas Tap Flow to Turkey?

shutterstock_92761900Improvement of Turkish and Israeli ties could make Istanbul a hub for Israeli natural gas deliveries to Europe

The discovery and development of large natural gas deposits by Israel in the eastern Mediterranean by local and foreign energy companies such as Delek Energy and Noble Energy  has become a game changer for Israel. Up to now, Israel has had to import most of its energy supplies which became problematic following the frequent attacks against the gas line bringing natural gas from Egypt to both Israel and Jordan. This alone caused Israel to shift its energy attention offshore;  and upon reaching large natural gas deposits in the Tamar undersea gas fields, Israel began constructing an undersea pipeline to bring the gas ashore.

The recent completion of this undersea gas pipeline resulted in this much needed energy source finally reaching the Israeli mainland. This event was hailed by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu who said: “this is an important day for Israel’s economy. We are making an important step for independence in the field of energy”.

The natural gas will not only be used for Israel’s own energy needs, but will also be sold to other countries; including Turkey, which plans to construct an undersea pipeline to import Israeli gas.

Turkey’s interest in the undersea gas fields stem from a variety of reasons, including their own chronic energy needs as well as their desire to be a dominant player in the eastern Mediterranean within which energy sources play a very important part.

The fact that Turkey occupies the northern part of Cyprus causes the Turkish government to  claim that part of these undersea gas reserves belong to Turkey; as stated in an article written by the Turkish based International Strategic Research Organization.

In this article, Haluk Direskeneli, an Ankara-based energy analyst, warned that foreign energy exploration companies like Noble Energy “may be taking too much of a confrontation risk”  by agreeing to engage in oil and gas exploration and drilling in the Aphrodite field that lies off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus, with which Noble entered into an agreement with to conduct these explorations.

A potential improvement in Turkish relations with Israel, the main energy player so far in the Eastern Mediterranean, may be in the offing as a result of Israel’s PM Netanyahu formally apologizing to Turkish PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan and agree to normalize relations between the two countries. The apology, which occurred during US President Barack Obama’s visit to Israel, could now result in joint cooperation in the energy field, as said by Turkey’s Energy Minister Taner Yildiz. This cooperation may restart the idea of constructing an undersea pipeline from Turkey to the undersea gas fields that Israel is developing in order to bring supplies of natural gas to Turkey and Europe.

This pipeline is being planned by a large Turkish conglomerate ; and could eventually have far reaching benefits and become a challenge to Russia’s gas producer Gazprom.

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