Turkey, Once a Major Importer of Iranian Oil, Turns Towards Libya

By John Daly | Tue, 19 June 2012 00:23 | 1

What a difference international sanctions and intense U.S. pressure make.

Turkey in March imported more than 270,000 barrels per day of oil from Iran, nearly triple the previous month’s 100,000 bpd, or 401,349 tons, according to the Turkish Statistical Institute.

And now? Turkey sought a waiver from U.S. sanctions against Iran and received a temporary one, along with India, Malaysia, South Africa, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Taiwan. Notably China, which buys as much as a fifth of Iran’s crude exports and Singapore did not receive exemptions.

Scrambling to make up the looming energy deficit, Turkey has begun talks with Saudi Arabia to make up any shortfalls caused by obeying the sanctions and on 16 June Turkish Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced that his government had signed a one million ton oil supply deal with Libya.

But in trading out Iran for Libya and Saudi Arabia, Turkey has swapped relative political stability for uncertainty. Whatever one thinks of the mullahcracy ruling Iran, it has been in power since 1979. Post-Gaddafi Libya is hardly a stable state as yet, with tensions between the eastern part of the country, which controls much of the nation’s oil output, rising with the authorities in Tripoli.

And the recent death of Saudi Crown Prince Naif bin Abdul Aziz at 78 years old may herald a period of instability for the nation. Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah bin Abdul Aziz is 88 years old, and has now outlived two appointed successors from among the elderly group of sons of Saudi’s founding monarch, King Abdul-Aziz, in a country where more than half the current population is under 25 years old.

And in the meantime, Turkey, which for the past decade has imported 93 percent of the oil and 98 percent of the natural gas it consumes, is beating the regional bushes to secure imports wherever it can.

On 7 June State Oil Company of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) Vice President Suleyman Gasimov stated that his nation would proceed with the Trans-Anatolian Gas Pipeline (TANAP) construction project, which could boost Azeri investments in Turkey to more than $17 billion, building upon last year’s momentum, when Turkey and Azerbaijan signed a memorandum of understanding to establish the consortium that will build the 1,240-mile long TANAP, estimated to cost $5-$7 billion to supply gas from Azerbaijan’s offshore Caspian Shah Deniz natural gas fields westwards through Turkey to Europe.

Another possible regional option is Iraq, where Turkey is exploring possible oil export deals with the Kurdish Regional Government, despite the fact that the outlawed separatist Marxist Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (Kurdistan Workers’ Party, PKK) has been battling the Turkish government from bases there since 1984.

But, not to worry. Turkey’s troubling energy deficits in the future are to be met by – nuclear energy. Addressing a “New Energy Corridor” panel discussion as part of the World Economic Forum on 14 June in Istanbul, Yildiz told his audience, “We are a country without a nuclear power plant. However, we are determined to have nuclear power plants. We want to meet our increasing energy needs by erecting at least 23 nuclear units by the year 2023. This implies building nuclear power plants in three regions of Turkey.”

And the crown piece of Turkey’s investment in nuclear power is to be its first nuclear power plant in Akkuyu, which Yildiz has proclaimed is moving forward despite public opposition.

Russia’s Atomenergoproekt has announced that engineering surveys at the Akkuyu NPP site on Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast are due to be completed later this year. Four 1,200 MWe VVER-1200 reactors are planned for Akkuyu under a 2010 agreement between the governments of Russia and Turkey. Akkuyu’s four units are to come online in 2019–22.

The Akkuyu NPP would be situated in a region subject to earthquakes. On 27 June 1998, a major earthquake measuring 6.3 on the Richter scale occurred in nearby Adana, which damaged 74,300 buildings, killed 150, injured 1,000 and caused damage estimated at $1 billion. Research has determined that an active fault line, the Ecemis fault, runs close to the Akkuyu site.

In the wake of the 11 March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Turkey’s governmental decision seems at the very least rash.

But we still leave the last word to the International Medical Corps, which dispatches personnel to disaster zones around the world. Speaking of Turkey the IMC observed, “Turkey frequently experiences seismic activity and authorities have significant capacity to manage disasters.” As regards Fukushima, “An International Medical Corps emergency response team was on-the-ground within 48 hours of the disaster, assessing needs and coordinating with the Japanese government.”

Fifteen months later, they’re still there.